Marsha Crocker is glad she came forward to be the proverbial squeaky wheel.
She said if she had not gone public with her frustration regarding changes to the employment insurance (EI) system as it pertains to people involved in the fishery, the federal government would not have reacted so quickly to correcting what it admitted was a mistake.
In early October, the Trout River resident came forward with her story of how her EI benefits had been drastically reduced because she could no longer claim the fishing income she had earned earlier in the year.
Claim reduced by new rules
According to new rules buried in the federal government’s omnibus budget implementation bill last spring, Crocker could only claim the weeks she later worked at a tourism-related job because she worked that job long enough to be eligible to file a regular EI claim.
Crocker had worked at other jobs in addition to fishing for several years prior and had always been able to claim the better pay associated with her fishing income.
Under the new calculations, Crocker’s EI benefits were reduced from around $800 every two weeks to a little more than $300. She didn’t discover how the changes would affect her until the fall.
After her story was published, the federal government admitted it had made a mistake and a new budget implementation bill in the fall would fix the error.
While lost benefits would be paid retroactively, there were some concerns affected EI recipients would not get the money owed to them in time for Christmas.
Crocker said she, along with others in the Trout River area who were in the same boat, got their revised cheques just before Christmas. She has heard others on open line radio say they would not get theirs until after Dec. 25.
Surprised at speedy revision
“I was pretty surprised it happened so quickly because, usually, those things take a lot longer,” Crocker said Monday. “I guess with some public outcry and some good backing from our politicians in the area, that sort of helped things along quite a bit.”
Prior to getting her corrected cheque, Crocker was not notified by the federal government that a mistake had been made or that the situation was being rectified.
She did receive a letter a few days after her latest EI cheque was directly deposited into her bank account indicating there had been changes to the calculation of her benefits.
Crocker said she had contacted Service Canada’s local offices about the reassessment and was told someone would be in touch with her, but she received no word. She called a toll-free number for inquiries regarding EI and said no one she spoke with knew about the changes.
She thinks such crucial changes to federal programs, especially when they will have a significant affect on someone’s expected income, should be better publicized and more effectively communicated to those directly affected.
“They know the people that are affected by it, so why not send us something to say what the new
regulations are instead of putting it in pages and pages and pages of Service Canada’s website,” said Crocker.
“Who, realistically, has time to sit down and read through everything there every time there is a change?”