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Frustrated EI applicants find an end-run around overwhelmed call centres

The excerpted article was written by Karina Roman · CBC News

Canadians forced to spend days trying to get through on Service Canada’s designated phone line to sort out problems with their employment insurance applications are sharing tips through social media and web forums — including a link to an online form that can get an agent to call back within 48 hours.

But government officials warn that if the number of people using that fast-track form increases substantially, the system will not be able to manage the volume — meaning longer waits for a call back, or perhaps no call back at all.

“There isn’t any hidden capacity in the system,” said one senior government official familiar with the situation, adding the form was created in the wake of the temporary closure of in-person Service Canada centres due to the pandemic.

“The form is not a substitute for the call centre route,” he added.

Many Canadians who applied for EI after losing their jobs due to the pandemic — and before the Canada Emergency Response Benefit was announced — say they have spent days trying to get through to an agent after an administrative snafu tied up their applications and they were told to contact Service Canada.

Those who can’t get through also can’t get paid. Many have gone weeks without receiving any benefits.

More than 2 million applications in a month

More than two million people applied for EI in March alone after economic activity shut down across the country. After that initial rush, the government redeployed 3,000 Service Canada employees to help with the call volume. Clearly that hasn’t been enough, especially on the call centre side.

Those phoning the call centre often hear an automated message telling them that call volume is too high and they must try again at another time. Callers are not given the option of requesting a call back.

“The system does not have that ability,” said the official. “Upgrades are necessary to do that and that is not a short-term fix.”

But Canadians have discovered that online callback form and have been sharing it on Facebook and Reddit, among other websites.

‘I figured it can’t hurt’

“I was up late worrying one night about how I was going to pay my rent and bills,” said Shelly Obholzer, a single mom who applied for EI but hadn’t received her money.

When she couldn’t get through to an agent over the phone, she found the form and gave it a shot.

“I figured it can’t hurt to see where it would go, considering I wasn’t able to get through (on the phone). Three days later I received a call … to my surprise it was a rep from Service Canada,” said Obholzer, adding that the agent sorted out her problem and told her to use the form again if she needed further assistance.

The form does not ask for any sensitive personal information. It asks for the applicant’s name, preferred language, location and phone number. It lists the applicant’s reasons for needing assistance; applicants can check off more than one box. There is a box at the bottom to type in details of the relevant problem.

Marina Mitchell applied for EI at the start of her maternity leave six weeks ago. She found the link to the callback form through a Google search which led her to the website of a financial and credit counselling company that was telling its clients about the form.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE: 

Economical Insurance deploys Catastrophe Response Team to assist customers with flood recovery

Economical Insurance deployed its Catastrophe Response Team to Fort McMurray to provide immediate assistance for Economical and Sonnet Insurance customers who have been impacted by flooding.

“Our team stands with the residents and business owners in the Fort McMurray community during this difficult time, and will remain on the ground until we’re sure that all the needs of our customers have been met,” Hans Reidl, Senior Vice-President, Claims at Economical Insurance.

The Economical team of adjusters are working to diligently support individuals and families, as well as business owners whose properties may have sustained physical damage because of the flooding. The team is responding quickly to work on claims that customers have already reported, and to assess any new claims that customers initiate over the next few weeks.

“We’re taking every opportunity to simplify the claims process to help reduce anxieties for our customers,” Shawn Little, Director, Technical Property and Catastrophe. “From wildfires in 2016, to flooding this spring during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Economical continues to provide security for the Fort Mac community when they need us most.”

Keeping customers, employees, and the community safe during COVID-19

With the added complexity of emergency travel, and physical distancing protocols related to COVID-19, Economical is taking extra response precautions as recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada to keep staff and customers safe amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Economical previously extended its long-standing partnership with Canadian Red Cross by providing an additional $100,000 donation for COVID-19 support measures. This continued support helps Red Cross responders to meet the urgent needs of people impacted by the flooding in Fort McMurray and the surrounding area of Alberta.

Canadians can donate to The Fort McMurray & Area Flood Fund which has been developed by Canadian Red Cross, to provide relief, recovery, resiliency and risk reduction activities in and beyond the region at the individual and community levels.

What information should customers collect when making a claim?

Keeping track of some important information before, during, and after experiencing a flood can make for a smoother claims process. Customers could be asked to provide any of the following information:

  1. A detailed description of the incident
  2. The type of materials damaged within the home or business
  3. Details about damaged belongings and if they need to be replaced or repaired
  4. Contact information for the contractor that will be used
  5. Whether additional living arrangements will be needed while waiting on repairs

Customers are also encouraged to address any additional questions directly with their adjuster, including questions about additional living expenses arrangements and overland water coverage.

For more information, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) has published additional public resources to assist customers to cope with spring flooding during the COVID-19 pandemic. IBC’s Consumer Information Centre can be reached at 1-844-2ASK-IBC.

Need to make a claim?

Customers of Economical who need to make a flood-related claim, should contact their broker or call Economical 24/7 to start the process: 1-800-607-2424. Customers of Sonnet can make a flood-related claim by calling 1-844-766-6384.

About Economical Insurance
Economical Mutual Insurance Company (“Economical” or “Economical Insurance”, which includes its subsidiaries such as Sonnet Insurance Company, “Sonnet” or “Sonnet Insurance”, where the context so requires) is a leading property and casualty insurer in Canada, with $2.5 billion in gross written premiums and approximately $6.0 billion in assets as at December 31, 2019. Economical is a Canadian-owned and operated company that services the insurance needs of more than one million customers.

SOURCE Economical Insurance

www.economicalinsurance.com

Document everything, insurance lawyer urges Albertans returning to flooded homes

Document everything, insurance lawyer urges Albertans returning to flooded homes

‘Take lots of photos, don’t take a denial at face value, make notes’

The excerpted article was written by CBC News 

As Northern Alberta residents discover the extent of flooding damage to their homes and businesses, a Fort McMurray lawyer offers a few practical tips that could pay off later in dealings with insurance companies.

Take photos. Make lists. Understand your policy. And don’t give up if your claim is initially denied.

“They’ve just been back to the property for the last day or two and the news is pretty heartbreaking,” said Christine Burton, a Fort McMurray lawyer who has worked through insurance issues with numerous residents in recent years.

“People are dealing with the shock and impact of cleaning up,” Burton told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM on Tuesday. “We’re telling people, ‘Please, take lots of photos, don’t take a denial at face value, make notes. Stay safe.'”

More than 14,000 people were evacuated as a result of recent river flooding in and around Fort McMurray, as well as along the Peace River.

As people progress from clean-up to rebuild, it is critical that they understand their insurance policies, even if it means hiring a lawyer to work through “subtle” policy language, said Burton.

Most policies won’t include coverage for overland flooding, when water flows over dry land before entering a property through doors or windows.

“It’s often a special endorsement you can buy. It’s very often expensive,” Burton said. The cost depends on the flood risk in the area where you live.

However, property owners whose policy includes a special endorsement for sewer backup may be able to get some money from their insurance companies.

“Take photos of your basements, the drains, the sump pump. Make notes of everything that’s happening, make lists of everything that you’ve lost.

“Fort McMurray has become a little bit of an expert, unfortunately, at insurance claims through fire —  and we’re still dealing with some of those claims,” Burton said. “Don’t take a denial at face value. You can challenge this. Understand your policy.”

Don Scott, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, has said he expects residential damages from the flooding in Fort McMurray could top $100 million.

In a statement, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said overland and sewer backup coverage are the key parts of a policy that pertain to flooding events but both of these are optional and must be added to home insurance policies.

Properties in high-flood areas may not be offered the coverage, the statement said.

“If a home has flood damage from this event but did not purchase the optional overland flood insurance or it was not available as the area is high-risk for flood, the policy would not cover the damages,” Celyeste Power, vice-president for the insurance bureau’s western region, said in the statement.

Property owners not covered by insurance may be able to access provincial disaster relief funding. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has said the provincial disaster relief program will likely be triggered for Wood Buffalo flooding.

Under that program, the government would provide some financial support for recovery costs for critical public infrastructure and non-insured private infrastructure.

Between 2009 and 2019, insurers paid out an average $1.9 billion per year on catastrophic flooding claims, compared with an average $422 million annually in the period from 1983 until 2008, according to Insurance Bureau data.

More than $2 billion in insured losses resulted from the June 2013 flooding event in southern Alberta, which caused $6 billion in damages and displaced 100,000 people.

CBC News

CAA Insurance Company Successfully Launches CSIO’s My Proof of Insurance Solution

Press Release:

(Toronto – April 29, 2020) CSIO is pleased to announce that CAA Insurance Company has successfully launched CSIO’s My Proof of Insurance as its preferred solution for sending customers their auto insurance cards (eSlips) over email. The launch coincides during a challenging time when paper and in-person meetings are less favourable and digital tools such as My Proof of Insurance are encouraged to ensure safe and consistent customer service.

Launched in 2018, CSIO’s My Proof of Insurance solution was developed collaboratively with industry support from insurers and brokers in response to a growing consumer demand for easier and convenient digital options within the insurance landscape. Since its release, support for the solution has grown year over year, with an increase in provincial approvals of electronic proof of auto insurance expanding across the country.

With a history of providing customers convenient and innovative auto insurance options, CAA Insurance looked to My Proof of Insurance as the next step in their digital roadmap. The solution provides customers with a free and secure way to receive, store and present their insurance documents and eSlips. Leveraging mobile wallet technology, eSlips are stored in a customers’ mobile wallet and can be accessed without the internet or having to download a separate app or sign into a company portal.

“Offering customers, a digital, efficient way to get their auto insurance cards, or eSlips, is an exciting addition to our service portfolio,” says Matthew Turack, President of CAA Insurance. “What was especially helpful was the fact that the registration, adoption, and launch of the solution was seamless. A simple and straightforward API meant we weren’t stuck in the implementation phase for months, allowing us to launch the solution in a timeframe we were comfortable with.”

– 30 –

About Centre for Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO)

CSIO is Canada’s industry association of property and casualty insurers, service providers and over 38,000 brokers. CSIO is committed to improving the consumer’s ease of doing business within the broker channel by overseeing the development, implementation and maintenance of technology standards and solutions such as My Proof of Insurance, eDocs, and eSignatures. In addition, CSIO operates the industry-owned mail network service, CSIOnet. CSIO maintains offices in Toronto and Montreal. For more information, visit csio.com.

www.csio.com

What happens when natural disaster strikes during a pandemic?

The excerpted article was written by Nicole Bogart CTVNews.ca 

TORONTO — While much of the country is consumed with the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, several communities are starting to grapple with another looming danger: natural disaster.

As western Canada prepares for the onset of wildfire season, and spring weather threatens regions of central and eastern Canada with flooding, those in affected regions are left questioning what might happen should natural disasters strike in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a question emergency preparedness experts say needs to be considered before it’s too late, while cautioning that the ongoing risk of the novel coronavirus will alter disaster response for years to come.

“Just having an elevated risk for COVID-19 changes the way that we think about disaster preparedness, disaster response and disaster recovery,” Andrew Kruczkiewicz, with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, told CTVNews.ca by phone from New York.

“Right now, we’re in a privileged position to think about some of these situations… these are important questions, and we have the responsibility and privilege to ask them now.”

Kruczkiewicz, an expert in risk assessment related to natural disasters, says the questions facing emergency response officials are twofold because officials will have to weigh the risk of current and potential outbreaks.

“We’re trying figure out how the questions we usually ask will deviate now that we have COVID-19. And not only current COVID-19 outbreaks, but the risk of future outbreaks,” he explained, noting that virus-free communities may not want outside help coming from other regions that have COVID-19 outbreaks.

“If there is a large-scale flood in a part of rural Canada that doesn’t have the virus, is there going to be a change in the way that we respond to that flood because the community doesn’t want the virus coming in?”

Other countries have already faced this debate.

After a recent cyclone struck the island of Vanuatu, which has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, humanitarian supplies flown in by the Australian government were left untouched for days due to strict quarantine rules.

In Canada, Kruczkiewicz notes that weighing the risk of introducing the virus to high-risk communities, especially Indigenous communities with poor health care support, could delay disaster response efforts by several days.

“I don’t think that would preclude firefighters or flood responders from coming in, but would it change the magnitude of that,” he explained.

CANADIANS ALREADY AT RISK

The changing magnitude of disaster response has already been on the minds of Canadian officials as flood and wildfire season begins.

A year after record flooding wiped out homes and triggered a military response, the rural Pontiac region of Quebec is already experiencing isolated flooding leading to evacuations.

At the same time, British Columbia’s wildfire service is bracing for a busy fire season, with 83 active fires already burning in the province. Last week, officials issued their first evacuation notice, forcing more than 120 Squamish Valley residents from their homes due to an encroaching wildfire.

Melanie Soler, vice president of emergency management at the Canadian Red Cross, says the organization began redesigning its response plans in January when the coronavirus began to spread globally.

“We’ve taken our regular hazard assessment and mapping tools and overlaid them with the COVID-19 information,” Soler told CTVNews.ca by phone, noting that the organization is paying special attention to high-risk and Indigenous communities.

“We’ve been working with communities to understand alternative ways of managing during an evacuation effort, whether it be sheltering in place or providing special considerations for communities coming out into host communities.”

Drawing on experiences from the 2016 fires in Fort McMurray and the B.C. wildfires of 2018, the organization says it has already taken most of its services online and implemented PPE protocols for workers across the country.

In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, Public Safety Canada said it’s working collaboratively with partners at all levels of government to prepare for potential emergency situations, noting that provinces and territories are responsible for the delivery of emergency management services.

“Contingency plans for flood and wildfire activities in the context of COVID-19 continue to be developed and incorporate considerations to align with the latest public health advice from regional, provincial, territorial and federal public health officials on COVID-19,” read the statement.

A spokesperson notes that, more than in previous years, sheltering in place will be recommended as a first measure for those affected by natural disasters. In instances where evacuation is necessary, the agency notes commercial and post-secondary lodging “is likely to be used” given high vacancy rates.

The military says it too is standing by in the event of a natural disaster.

“In an effort to address the natural disaster season in conjunction with the COVID-19 response, the Government of Canada has requested the assistance of the CAF with the whole-of-government COVID-19 response operations,” read an emailed statement issued to CTVNews.ca.

“We will co-ordinate efforts to provide for the appropriate degree of flexibility that will enable our forces to respond quickly and decisively to both natural disaster and COVID-19 emergency activities concurrently.”

But Kruczkiewicz notes that, although COVID-19 is still registering as a “shock to the system,” long-term measures must be enacted to prevent new outbreaks, especially before a vaccine is developed and released.

“We’ll have a generally decreased resilience to disasters for the next two years,” he said.

“So, how do we factor that in to the way that we develop our standard operating procedures to decrease risk of impact from disasters?”

NOW IS THE TIME TO PREPARE

Soler notes that the pandemic has shed new light on the importance of preparing an emergency kit.

“During this time, we’ve all been really reflective about what are the basics that we need,” she said.

She suggests that Canadians use extra time around the house to create a preparedness kit that they can keep in the car or somewhere safe in the house in the event of an evacuation.

Make sure to include things like insurance papers, prescription information, pet food or supplies that are unique to your family’s needs. More information can be found on the Red Cross website.

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