Danielle Hurch has been left wondering where her money is that was promised to her months ago by the B.C. government.
Hurch (name changed to protect her privacy) has been working for the past five years at Glacier View Lodge, a public complex-care facility in Courtenay, and is one of many health-care workers who are eligible for B.C. Temporary Pandemic Pay.
The pay is a cost-shared program with the federal government that supports eligible workers in health, social services and corrections who are delivering services to people most vulnerable to COVID-19 where maintaining physical distancing is difficult or impossible.
The pay is a lump-sum payment equivalent to about $4 per hour for straight-time hours worked over a 16-week period, which began on March 15, 2020.
The program is designed for provincially-funded employers to apply to the government which then provides the funds to employers, who are in turn responsible for distributing the funds to employees.
That’s where the problem is, explained Hurch, as employees at GVL have not seen any money flow through, despite the organization applying for the funding prior to the government’s Oct. 31 deadline.
“It was supposed to be paid out … and nothing is getting done. It’s really upsetting. Everyone (at the lodge) is feeling like what is going on?”
She said friends who work in health care at other facilities across the province have received their pay and noted employees are frustrated at the discrepancies between facilities.
“It’s not fair; people are quitting and people are scared to say anything or ask – it’s something we should have had two months ago.”
According to the government, once a claim has been validated, it will be sent to the Ministry of Finance for payment, which typically takes seven to 10 business days.
Anne Judson, board chair at GVL, confirmed the facility submitted its claim in early October and is currently waiting for the funds from the province. She said the total claim for the lodge in excess of $100,000 and it is not in a position to forward funds to its employees before receiving provincial money.
“We’re too small of an organization … it’s really unfortunate that (other facilities) chose to pay out in advance, but smaller organizations like us are not in a position to pay in advance of receiving the money from the Ministry of Health.”
During a press conference last week, Health Minister Adrian Dix has pledged those eligible will have the funds in their bank accounts soon.
“I can assure them that they will get the pay that they are promised,” Dix said during a news conference Dec. 14, adding that the process has been “quite complicated,” but feels that despite the efforts by the finance ministry it has taken too long.
“I agree. It has taken too long and we all accept that,” Dix said. “People are working through it very diligently but everyone who is eligible for pandemic pay will receive it without question.”
A representative from the Ministry of Finance told Black Press Media that employees who have not yet received their additional pay are understandably frustrated and that the ministry apologizes for the delays.
She noted since the submission deadline, approximately 134,000 eligible employees have received a total of almost $211 million, and that delays are largely due to “administrative complexities associated with distributing a new program to more than 250,000 employees working for hundreds of different employers.
“Despite the challenges of distributing a new program to employees, it should not have taken this long. A cross-government group has been created to streamline the process and we are increasing resources to clear the bottleneck,” she explained.
The ministry anticipates nearly all of the remaining claims will be processed by the end of January.
– With files from Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press