SECHELT (NEWS 1130) — The cash didn’t come by Christmas as promised, then New Year’s passed, then Valentine’s Day, then Easter. One couple has been waiting more than four months for the BC Recovery Benefit, and no one will tell them why it’s taking so long.
When applications for the $500 per person pandemic relief payment opened in December of last year, Mellisa Wilson and her husband Shawn applied right away. In February, they heard some people were being asked to submit additional documents, so they sent them in without being asked, hoping that would help.
Now, Mellisa says trying to figure out the status of their application has become a “full-time job,” and despite near-daily phone calls and emails to the province — she can’t get any answers.
“We’ve been in constant contact with them. We’re almost grovelling and begging for somebody to tell us something about anything,” she says.
“Here we are, Easter’s passed now. This was supposed to be given out by Christmas to help families and their time of need. Well, we’re a family in a time of need. We’ve been let down time and time again. I am beside myself, I don’t know where to turn for help, and I don’t feel anybody cares.”
It’s been over 4 months since applications opened, but some people in need are still waiting for the BC Recovery Benefit.
Tonight @NEWS1130 we hear from a woman who applied in Dec & feels “lost, forgotten, unimportant” without any answers or reasoning for the delay from gov’t.
— Bailey Nicholson (@bcjnicholson) May 4, 2021
The government website says, “If your application is still in progress, you may contact us to check the status of your application.” It continues to say that call centre agents can answer questions and “provide information about your application status.”
This has not been Mellisa’s experience.
“In fact, the first thing they open when you speak with them is, ‘We are unable to give you personal information, nor are we able to give you an estimated wait time, we are not able to comment on individual applications,” she says.
‘My application is not in process if nobody’s looked at it’
Last week, when Wilson phoned to check on her application, she says the person she spoke to told her it had not yet been reviewed.
“It has been almost five months, and not a person has looked at our application since December. That, in my opinion, is completely abysmal. I am horrified,” she says.
“I send email after email, I describe our financial situation, I reach out for help, and they just keep sending us the same email. ‘Sorry we can’t comment on applications that are in process.’ My application is not in process if nobody’s looked at it. How can that be? That’s not true. It’s an absolute lie.”
Applications for the benefit close at the end of June, and that looming deadline worries Mellisa. If she’s denied or asked to submit more documents after that, she’s worried she may never receive the funds. Mellisa says she’s written to her MLA and her MP, but has not received a response.
Hearing from people who have received the benefit even though they applied months after she did is only adding to her frustration.
“To hear that somebody applied in March and has already received is an absolute slap in the face for those of us who applied in December and are still waiting, and we’re not even under review. It’s just unbelievable to me,” she says.
“I feel like we’re lost, forgotten, unimportant.”
NEWS 1130 has reached out to the Ministry of Finance to find out how many applications for the benefit are currently under review, but did not receive a response. On March 9, there were 160,000. At that time, the ministry said more than 400,000 application reviews had been completed, and over $1 billion had been handed out to over 2.3 million applicants.