Letter: Additional steps required for BC Recovery Benefit an exercise in extreme frustration

Editor:

It has come to my attention that a large number of applicants to the recently implemented BC Recovery Benefit have received, in addition to the application confirmation email, a follow-up email requiring a number of additional documents.

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I am part of a group of mom friends and, out of the five of us, four have received this email. I have attached a copy of the email they have received for your information.

While a reasonable request for additional information would be understandable, this request seems quite the opposite. These are people who are longterm B.C. residents who submit B.C. tax returns, use B.C.’s MyFamilyServices portal and have valid B.C. driver's licences — all information the provincial government has access to and administers.

Issues immediately apparent with this request are as follows:

• Full 2019 tax return: The initial application had applicants provide line 26300 of their tax return. Provincial income tax is paid and filed at the same time as federal income tax based on this amount. As this is a provincial benefit, the province has access to the income information it needs and the full federal tax return should have no bearing on its administration.

• Proof of identification: This was provided when applicants completed the initial application by providing either their driver's licence number or BC Services Card number.

• Proof of citizenship/permanent residency: This was provided when applicants entered their social insurance number. In addition, by providing income tax information, this also adds legitimacy to this.

• Two documents, such as a bank statement, utility bill, phone bill, credit card statement or house insurance showing applicant and spouse/partner's name, that include Dec. 18 in the statement period. Obvious issues with this include partners who keep separate bank accounts, utilities registered in just one person's name, renters who don't have any utilities in their name, people who have recently moved and have not updated their information, people who only receive e-bills and have no statements demonstrating their address and, most obviously, Dec. 18 statements will not be sent out to people until January, meaning an even longer wait time for funds over and above the 30 days that may be required for processing.

This seems like an attempt to slow the large swath of applications the province likely received, persuade people to give up on applying altogether or render people unable to complete the request and, as a result, not have to pay them at all. 

While I understand the difficulties in administering such a program, the provincial government has access to all the information it has requested, with the exception of the bills demonstrating proof of cohabitation and residency. Is this a matter of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, a delay tactic, useless bureaucracy or all of the above?

What was touted as a fairly simple application for very necessary financial relief has become an incredibly confusing and difficult process for many. In conversations with my friends, there was a lot of anger and frustration over this, including the lack of transparency and lack of communication on why such additional documentation would even now be required. We even considered the possibility there had been a data breach or a hack trying to phish for information because the request seemed so bizarre.

While we are grateful to live in a country and province where we have access to these types of benefits, we would appreciate you look into the matter further as this complication is likely affecting thousands of hard-working British Columbians who are already under tremendous financial pressure and hardship.

Michelle Neufeld

Kamloops

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