1. Clients and MPs’ offices across the country have noticed continued delays in EI claims processing compared to past standards.
2. Caseworkers all report working on cases that are over 100 days old. After such a delay clients have usually started to receive welfare payments from the provincial government as a result, which is a cost to the provincial government, and results in needless paperwork.
3. Staff are being cut as a result of overall budget cutbacks.
4 It seems that the move to more online processing and automation has not yet improved service.
5. The government’s elimination of the Community Access Program will reduce the ability of some clients to go online.
6. Scrapping the Employment Insurance Review Boards increases pressure on the staff to avoid mistakes in claims processing. In the future, appeals will receive much less attention.
7. Changing EI rules will mean a learning curve and new responsibilities for HR&SD ministry staff.
In the face of these factors, the HR&SD minister’s decision to close the Kingston EI Processing Office (an office that, until last summer, was expanding and designated as a processing hub), establish a new office in North Bay, move workers there, or hire and train new workers, seems like an unnecessary expense and an operational risk.
Unemployed workers would rather have good jobs than apply for EI. Often through no fault of their own, they are forced to seek this temporary help to feed and house themselves and their families. It is cruel and heartless for the government to risk additional delays in processing and increase the likelihood of mistakes for EI recipients who are already facing a very difficult time in their lives.
The government is supposed to be serving people’s dire needs in this situation, not just playing a game of bureaucratic musical chairs. I call on the Minister to make public the financial and risk management rationale behind her decision.