Coronavirus: Alberta emergency isolation support website offline due to ‘high volume of traffic’

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Government passes emergency COVID-19 legislation'
Coronavirus outbreak: Government passes emergency COVID-19 legislation
WATCH ABOVE: The federal government won unanimous consent to quickly pass emergency legislation to free up $82 billion to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 crisis. After a day of tense negotiations, MPs began debating the bill in the wee hours of morning, with a vote planned within a couple of hours. Mercedes Stephenson has more on the deal. – Mar 25, 2020

Albertans who have been forced to self-isolate due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have no other source of income can now apply for financial support from the province.

Last week, the Alberta government announced $50 million in financial support for self-isolating residents.

READ MORE: Premier Jason Kenney provides details on COVID-19 financial aid

A one-time payment of $1,146 is available for those who meet the criteria. The temporary funds are part of the government’s COVID-19 response “to keep Albertans safe during this unprecedented global health crisis,” the province said in a media release.

Click to play video: 'Alberta financial support applications temporarily paused due to high demand'
Alberta financial support applications temporarily paused due to high demand

On Wednesday, the province announced it is now taking emergency isolation support applications from working Albertans who are self-isolating or who are the sole caregivers for someone in self-isolation.

Story continues below advertisement

Eligibility criteria

The province said working Alberta adults who have experienced total or significant loss of income as a result of having to self-isolate or care for a dependent who is self-isolating can apply for emergency isolation support payments if:

  • They have been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • They are caring for a dependent who is self-isolating
  • They have otherwise been directed by health authorities to self-isolate
  • They are not receiving compensation from any other source

Once their eligibility has been confirmed, Albertans will be asked to create a verified MyAlberta Digital ID, which the government said is required to complete the application.

Information from the applicant’s driver’s licence or ID card will be used to confirm their identity, the province said.

Qualifying applicants will receive a one-time payment of $1,146 through Interac e-Transfer.

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

The payment is meant to bridge the gap between now and when the federal government plans to expand Employment Insurance benefits at the beginning of April.

High demand, technical issues

Shortly after the application process opened Wednesday, the service “experienced some technical issues due to high demand,” according to a spokesperson with Service Alberta.

Story continues below advertisement

Global News learned several people were unable to submit their ID information.

Tricia Velthuizen said the server was being reset Wednesday afternoon.

Anyone who experiences technical issues with the website is asked to call 1‐844‐643‐2789.

“We fully understand how frustrating technical issues can be. Service Alberta is seeking to accommodate high demand as best as possible under difficult, exceptional circumstances,” Velthuizen said.

Concerns were also raised by some Albertans about what residents should do if their driver’s licence or ID is expired.

Velthuizen said anyone whose licence expired between March 17 and May 15 has until May 15 to renew.

She said the system is not currently set up to accept an expired driver’s licence or ID, but “we are working quickly to update it to reflect the extension.”

Velthuizen said early Wednesday afternoon that the government is working on a timeline for the changes for those whose licences may have expired prior to March 17.

By 2 p.m. Wednesday, several thousand people had already applied, Premier Jason Kenney said.
Story continues below advertisement
“I just wanted to ask people to be patient as we cope with the overwhelming demand,” Kenney said.
“I just want to remind people that this is not intended to be a long-term income replacement program. It’s simply an interim cash payment for people who are in isolation who have no other income until they quality for the expanded federal benefits.”

Applications can be made online. Those who require assistance with the application can call the Service Alberta Contact Centre at 310-4455. The call centre is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

As of 6 p.m. Thursday, approximately 13,000 applications have been successfully processed, the government said.

There were more problems on Thursday due to “very high volume of traffic.”

“On both March 25 and 26, MyAlberta Digital ID and the Emergency Isolation Support application were taken offline after a period of activity,” Service Alberta spokesperson Darren Stadel explained in a statement to Global News.

“Support teams needed to expand the system’s ability to handle ongoing large volumes of requests to create and verify accounts. At present, the system remains offline,” he said at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Story continues below advertisement

“We will unfortunately need to periodically pause access to the system in order to carefully manage the flow of applications. The system will be available March 27 from 9 a.m. to noon and from 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. We will continue to provide daily updates about system availability,” Stadel said.

“We recognize that many Albertans are counting on the speedy availability of Emergency Isolation Support funds. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience these technical limitations have caused.”

NDP Labour and Immigration Critic Christina Gray tweeted that to her the eligibility criteria laid out by the Kenney government “is more narrowly defined than that of the federal government program.”

She also said more needs to be done for Albertans who are losing income because of the pandemic and the response to it, and reiterated a call from her party for Kenney to bring in legislation to stop renters from being evicted April 1 for not paying their rent.

In a news release, NDP Leader Rachel Notley said “Premier Kenney is creating a crisis by failing to act” on legislation regarding evictions.

“People need to stay home, and that means they need a home to stay in,” she said.

“Pushing an Alberta family into an emergency shelter or crowding them into another family’s home is directly contrary to the advice of public health officials, and will harm Alberta’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus.”

Story continues below advertisement

Kenney has argued there is already a significant backlog on evictions in the province that existed before COVID-19 reached Alberta.

“Landlords need to be able to continue to protect the value of their property from bad tenants,” he said.

Kenney urged landlords to pass along any savings they may receive either from provincial measures or mortgage payment deferrals.

“It makes no economical sense for them to evict tenants for missing April rent given the effective shutdown of our economy, because who else is going to fill those units?”

–With a file from The Canadian Press’ Dean Bennett, a file from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich and a file from 630 CHED’s Kirby Bourne

Sponsored content