Coronavirus: Ontario woman receives government benefits after Global News report

Mother who paid into EI denied benefits during coronavirus pandemic
(April 21) She paid Employment Insurance benefits, had a child and then lost her job. Alysha Vanderhart of Caledon, Ont., expected to receive benefits but was twice denied.

A mother north of Toronto has finally received government benefits, one day after a Global News report exposed how she was denied twice by Ottawa.

First, Alysha Vanderhart did not receive maternity benefits even though she and her employer had made employment insurance contributions for about three years; then, she and her father say Alysha was denied employment insurance benefits when the company she worked for had to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The small business in Brampton, Ont., is owned by her father, Todd Vanderhart.

READ MORE: A Coronavirus ‘double-whammy’: Unemployed mother of 2 is denied both EI and CERB

“It’s been really stressful. It’s been hard to pay some bills,” Alysha told Global News in an interview. She has a one-year-old and a 10-year-old.

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Unlike hundreds of thousands of other Canadians, Alysha said she was unable to collect either employment insurance benefits (EI) or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, commonly known as CERB.

“Nobody in our family ever went on welfare, unemployment or anything like that,” said Todd Vanderhart.

And that’s the problem.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Here’s how to apply for EI and the new COVID-19 emergency benefit

The company she works for, Classifier Milling Systems Corp. of Brampton, is owned by her dad. By law, it was required to close during the COVID-19 pandemic because it is considered a non-essential service.

“Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon,” said Corinne Pohlmann, vice president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, referring to employment insurance denials for family members. The CFIB says family businesses should obtain a ruling from Employment and Social Development Canada regarding the employed family member’s eligibility for EI benefits.

“We constantly try to remind business owners that if you have family members in the business and you want them to be insurable, they need to get a ruling to make sure,” Pohlmann told Global News.

READ MORE: Emergency coronavirus benefit could be a model for future aid programs: minister

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The CFIB estimates about four out of 10 small businesses in Canada employ one or more family members.

In some circumstances, a family member of an employee would qualify for coverage. If not, the ruling allows business owners and their family employees to stop contributing to employment insurance benefits.

Last year, when Alysha had her second child, she attempted to secure maternity benefits from the government but could not get a straight answer, she said.

“We continuously called them, monthly, but no one would return our calls,” Todd said.

Moncton woman says she couldn’t get Canada Emergency Response Benefit
Moncton woman says she couldn’t get Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Then recently, Alysha said she received bad news from a government representative when she attempted to obtain benefits after losing her employment.

“They said I wasn’t working for the past year, but that’s because I was supposed to be off on maternity leave, so now they are denying me both.”

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“It is a bit of a double-whammy in that particular circumstance, and I do feel for them because it’s not easy to get through all this bureaucracy the government puts in front of workers,” Pohlmann said.

Global News contacted the office of the Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada, Ahmed Hussen, to find out why Vanderhart had been denied.

One week after asking for an explanation, a government spokesperson responded to two questions asked by Global News.

The government representative said in a written statement that Vanderhart had been denied benefits by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) last year.

“The CRA ruled in January 2019 that her employment was not insurable. With no EI insurable employment, Ms. Vanderhart was unable to establish an EI claim for benefits,” the statement reads.

READ MORE: Hudson’s Bay accused of shorting employees’ severance pay amid coronavirus pandemic

Todd Vanderhart says the CRA did not convey that decision to them at the time. He insists he and his daughter repeatedly attempted to reach CRA staff last year to discuss the claim, but to no avail.

Recently, when his daughter also tried to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Todd says she was prevented from completing the form. An agent had already denied her claim for EI benefits, he said.

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However, one day after Global News first reported Alysha’s difficulties, things appear to have changed.

Toronto-area Hudson’s Bay employees get pay cut, are then laid off
Toronto-area Hudson’s Bay employees get pay cut, are then laid off

“As a result, her application was processed through the CERB. She was determined to be eligible and benefits have been paid,” the government communications representative told Global News in an email.

Alysha confirmed the funds were transferred into her account.

“She did get the money into her account (one day) after your show aired,” Todd said.

“Thank you. That’s great,” he added.