A Maple Ridge senior is frustrated that his $1,000 pandemic recovery benefit is being held up.
John McKenzie, 66, said he spent an hour and a half at the Maple Ridge library trying to wade through government red tape and get the cheque promised him by NDP Leader John Horgan during the provincial election campaign. He asked people for help.
“It’s so complex – so complicated,” he said.
He is a volunteer driver for seniors through community services, and worries those who are less computer literate than he will not be able to claim their benefits.
McKenzie has been in touch with MLA Bob D’Eith’s office for help, and has learned he made a mistake in filing for the funds – he indicated his marital status as “single,” when he is in fact “separated” – albeit 20 years separated.
“So [the application] goes into this incredible black hole,” he lamented. “It looks like they’re looking for an excuse to dump your file, and not give you they money.”
B.C. has paid the pandemic recovery benefit to an estimated 1.6 million British Columbians. However, roughly 429,000 applications have been held up in a manual review process. McKenzie is one of those, and it could take a month for the review to be completed.
The finance ministry said roughly 70 per cent of applications received since mid-December have been automatically approved.
Meanwhile, 150 ministry staff have been reassigned to assist in manually reviewing flagged applications.
Launched on Dec. 18, individuals with a net income of up to $62,500 are eligible for $500, while couples, single parents and families with a net income of up to $125,000 are eligible for $1,000. Reduced amounts are available for those who made up to a net income of $87,500 and $175,000, respectively.
A person will face a manual review when the online system cannot automatically verify a person’s identity, income and residency with the data currently available to the ministry from the Canadian Revenue Agency.
McKenzie noted the mistake of calling himself “single” did not prevent the CRA from deducting thousands of dollars in taxes every year for the past two decades.
He is reasonably confident he will get the funds eventually, “If I don’t die of a heart attack dealing with the B.C. government bureaucracy first.”
Up to 3.7 million British Columbians are eligible to receive the B.C. recovery benefit, which will be available until later this year. Those who don’t have online access can phone 1-833-882-0020.
– With files from Ashley Wadhwani