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Claiming B.C.'s COVID-19 Recovery Benefit has not been quick or easy for some in province

Last Updated Dec 21, 2020 at 8:11 am PDT

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A number of people claim they are having to jump through hoops to apply for B.C.'s COVID-19 Recovery Benefit

A one-time, tax-free payment of up to $1,000 for families and $500 for individuals was a BC NDP election promise

Many British Columbians are being asked to provide 'verification,' submit multiple documents after applying online

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Accessing B.C.’s Recovery Benefit — a COVID-19 relief program meant to put money in the pockets of British Columbians — is proving to be a challenge for some people.

Applications for the COVID-19 recovery benefit, a one-time, tax-free payment of up to $1,000 for eligible families and single parents, and up to $500 for eligible individuals, opened Friday.

By Sunday, many contacted NEWS 1130 and took to social media to say they were receiving an email from the province outlining additional hoops to jump through to get a payment they were led to believe would be easy to access.

“And seniors, who are older and who don’t have a computer … how the hell are they supposed to fulfill all these requirements? They cannot. And, to be honest, I think the government are counting on most people not getting the money, so it’s not really costing them that much,” says Wendy, a retired nurse who was asked to provide her entire 2019 notice of assessment, further proof of ID, and at least two bills, insurance or credit card statements.

“You know, to expect people to go out and or make phone calls where they’re on hold for hours, to try and get print copies of bills and stuff, it’s just ridiculous. That’s one reason why I’m so angry; I’m angry for all the older people, it’s just too much for them,” Wendy tells NEWS 1130.

“Like, whoever the idiot was who came up with this whole plan, truly, they need to be fired,” Wendy, who called NEWS 1130 Sunday night, adds. “They need to cancel this whole idea and re-do it, that’s what they need to do: shut it down now before more people lose their minds.”

Another caller was able to provide NEWS 1130 with a copy of one of the aforementioned emails. It lists documents that need to be submitted within 30 days to verify income, identity, and residence.

“To verify you and your spouse or common-law partner’s net income, a readable copy of ALL pages of you and your spouse or common-law partner’s most recent 2019 Canadian income tax return notice of assessments or reassessments,” the email reads.

Next, it requests a photocopy of one piece of government ID.

Then comes the requirement to provide two documents verifying one was a B.C. resident on Dec. 18.

“To confirm you and your spouse or common-law partner are current B.C. residents, a readable copy of at least two of the following documents. The documents must show you and your spouse or common-law partner’s name and B.C. address, and must include December 18, 2020 in the document date range,” it reads.

Those documents include bank statements, utility bills, phone bills, credit card statements, and house insurance or renewal. Many pointed out bills for services received on Dec. 18 won’t be issued until January.

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Once the documents have been collected, they can be submitted by mail or through an online portal.

One listener who uploaded the required documents sent a screenshot of the confirmation email that followed.

“Due to the high volume of correspondence being received, it may take up to 30 days to respond to your enquiry. We thank you for your patience and request that you refrain from requesting status updates during that time.”

A phone line launches Monday for those who could not apply online, and people who received emails over the weekend are being told to call that number if they need to follow up.

The recovery benefit was part of the NDP’s platform in the provincial election.

Opposition leader Shirley Bond took to Twitter to call the rollout of the benefit a “disaster.”

In November, shortly before cabinet was sworn in, Horgan reiterated his hope cash would make it into people’s bank accounts by Christmas.

“We’re targeting Christmas, of course. I think British Columbians will just be happy to have access to a thousand bucks for their families or 500 bucks for individuals whether it comes on Dec. 24 or it comes on the 5th of January,” he said.

NEWS 1130 has reached out to B.C.’s minister of finance for comment.

-With files from Kareem Gouda