BY TERESA MALLAM
Hands up … how many who applied for the B.C. recovery benefit days before Christmas got the money in their bank by New Year’s Eve? Five of you? Not bad, given a small population sample based on my readership.
Really, how many of you, your B.C. friends and relatives, acquaintances — or your local butcher, baker or candlestick maker — dutifully answered questions online or by phone, and then, got an email asking for more information?
The program’s tete a tete sessions rely on you having three things: patience, a computer and email address. Now stories are in the news and social media about people who wanted but didn’t get the cash for Christmas they expected, based on a campaign promise.
Oh, I know. Who believes anything politicians have to say. But when B.C. premier John Horgan said those who applied online Dec.18 or by phone on Dec, 21 could have money by Christmas, it did sound promising. The relief, Horgan said, was his administration’s “absolute most pressing goal” — which makes perfect sense when you’re rolling out dough.
Over three million people were deemed probably eligible for the tax-free payouts which provide up to $500 for singles, and up to $1,000 for couples.
A friend applied Dec. 23. He got an email on Dec. 25 telling him that his application was “approved” and the benefit would be in his bank account, “within five business days.” And it was.
Others are still waiting. Some counted on it for holiday spending … or paying hydro and gas bills. A couple I know applied by phone before my friend did and, while they got a “case number,” they still have no cash.
This roll out should have been as easy as pie. Just follow the recipe and plan ahead to avoid things like government online website crashes and phone line follies.The rules, for applicants, seemed easy to follow too.
Unless you had more income in 2019 than the criteria allows, (for singles over $62,000) or you actually lived on Pluto, not Prince George or another B.C. town, chances are you’d qualify.
But in many cases, actually getting the funds in hand was frustrating. The delay in doling out dollars may mean (as suggested by B.C.’s finance minister Selina Robinson) they want to ferret out frauds.
That means taking their time to check their list twice, making sure no undeserving boys or girls get their dirty mitts on all that dough. Good idea. Tough cookies those finance minister types.
That’s why they ask so many questions.
Lots of people I know don’t have my email address, some don’t even have my cell phone number. But B.C.’s recovery benefit program has both, plus my civic address, bank account info, annual income, SIN number and date of birth.
All wrapped up in a bow. A mini census.
They got to update and upload this information with my consent (for cash) but I hope they do have a fool proof plan to keep it safe with no cookie crumb trail for hackers to follow.
Longtime Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, now interim leader of official opposition for the Liberal Party of BC, called the NDP rollout of dough a “mess.” She’s right. But I also agree with Robinson that the party’s bakers likely did their best — even if the relief scheme itself was a little half-baked.
My New Year’s wish for readers is that 2020 passes by silently and surreptitiously, like a thief in the night. No fanfare. No loud horns, No hats. No fireworks, And of course, no big parties.
Just goodbye. Good riddance. The Grinch only stole Christmas. COVID19 stole a year from us along with people, plans, and our peace of mind. Next year with vaccines, vigilance, some hope and some prayer, we may just get through this.