Some fishing EI recipients received reassessed cheques before Christmas
TROUT RIVER — Marsha Crocker is certainly glad she came forward to be the proverbial squeaky wheel.
She believes that if she had not gone public with her frustration regarding changes to the Employment Insurance system as it pertains to people involved in the fishery, the federal government would not have reacted so quickly to correcting what it admitted was a mistake.
In early October, the Trout River resident came forward with her story of how her EI benefits had been drastically reduced because she could no longer claim the fishing income she had earned earlier in the year. According to new rules buried within the federal government’s omnibus budget implementation bill last spring, Crocker could only claim the weeks she later worked at a tourism-related job because she did that job long enough to be eligible to file a regular EI claim.
Crocker had worked at other jobs in addition to fishing for several years prior and had always been able to claim the better pay associated with her fishing income.
Under the new calculations, Crocker’s EI benefits were reduced from around $800 every two weeks to a little more than $300. She never discovered the impact the changes would have on her until the fall.
After her story with The Western Star was published, the federal government admitted it had made a mistake and that a new budget implementation bill in the fall would fix the error.
While any lost benefits would be paid retroactively, there were some concerns affected EI recipients would not get the money owed to them in time for the Christmas holiday.
Crocker said she, along with others in the Trout River area who were in the same boat as her, did get their revised cheques just before Christmas. She has heard others on open line radio say they would not be getting theirs until some time after Dec. 25.
“I was pretty surprised it happened so quickly because, usually, those things take a lot longer,” Crocker said Monday. “I guess with some public outcry and some good backing from our politicians in the area, that sort of helped things along quite a bit.”
Prior to getting her corrected cheque, Crocker never received any communication from the federal government that a mistake had been made or that the situation was being rectified. She did receive a letter a few days after her latest EI cheque was directly deposited into their bank account indicating there had been changes to the calculation of her benefits.
Crocker said she had contacted Service Canada’s local offices about the reassessment and was told someone would be in touch with her, but no one ever did. She called a toll-free number for inquiries regarding EI and said no one she spoke with knew about the changes.
She thinks such crucial changes to federal programs, especially when they will have a significant impact on someone’s expected income, should be better publicized and more effectively communicated to those directly impacted.
“They know the people that are affected by it, so why not send us something to say what the new regulations are instead of putting it in pages and pages and pages of Service Canada’s website,” said Crocker. “Who, realistically, has time to sit down and read through everything there every time there is a change?”