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Alberta’s Critical Work Benefit portal exposed employee information: province

Click to play video: 'Kenney defends critical worker bonus amid Alberta wage cuts' Kenney defends critical worker bonus amid Alberta wage cuts
Premier Jason Kenney defends giving a one-time benefit to Alberta front-line workers due to the pandemic, while also defending planned wage rollbacks in the public sector amid economic challenges Alberta has experienced for several years now. – Feb 10, 2021

The web portal that allows COVID-19 front-line workers across Alberta to access the Critical Worker Benefit exposed the personal information of 224 employees, the provincial government announced on Friday.

Minister of Labour and Immigration Jason Copping issued a news release that said the government was made aware of the issue earlier this week.

“I want to apologize to those employees who have been affected by this unfortunate situation,” Copping said.

Read more: Ottawa, Alberta to distribute 1-time $1,200 payment to COVID-19 front-line workers

The portal was temporarily shut down and the issue was resolved, he added.

“We are working with employers to contact affected employees directly and, as a precaution, the Government of Alberta will be providing credit monitoring to affected employees to ensure the protection of their identities, personal information and credit.”

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Click to play video: 'Thousands of front-line workers to receive Alberta critical worker benefit' Thousands of front-line workers to receive Alberta critical worker benefit
Thousands of front-line workers to receive Alberta critical worker benefit – Feb 10, 2021

The government is working to contact the affected employees as soon as possible.

If someone who has applied to receive the benefit is not contacted, their information was not affected.

“This is a serious technical error, and yet another indication that this UCP government is still not able to deliver support programs
without creating additional distress for Albertans,” NDP labour and immigration critic Christina Gray said in a statement Friday afternoon.

“For the Critical Worker Benefit, the UCP had nine months to design and implement a proper rollout. There is no excuse for these repeated technical issues.”

Read more: Albertans face ‘cumbersome’ process applying for Critical Workers Benefit: union

Premier Jason Kenney announced the one-time payment of $1,200 on Feb. 10, calling it a reward for going to work despite personal risk amidst the pandemic.

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“They deserve the best that we can give them,” Kenney said at the time.

“No matter what, we’ve got your back right to the end of this difficult time.”

The $465-million program was designed to benefit up to 380,000 workers in areas like health care, social services, retail and transportation.

Some applying for the benefit described the process as cumbersome.

Click to play video: 'Premier Kenney announces one-time $1,200 critical worker benefit for Albertans' Premier Kenney announces one-time $1,200 critical worker benefit for Albertans
Premier Kenney announces one-time $1,200 critical worker benefit for Albertans – Feb 10, 2021

Employers have to apply for the benefit on behalf of their employees with a multi-step process including signing up for a digital ID, submitting information on every employee, corporate banking information and signing a grant agreement. The employee’s SIN also needs to be submitted.

Companies then pass along the funds to their employees.

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Copping said the government confirmed no information had been accessed or shared outside of the portal.

“We want to assure Albertans that the information entered into the Critical Worker Benefit application portal remains secure from the public.”

The province is now working with the privacy commissioner to make sure a similar issue doesn’t happen again.

– With files from Adam Toy, 770 CHQR

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