Those laid off are having troubles applying for Employment Insurance

WatchMany Vancouver Island residents have found they can't apply for Employment Insurance because Canada's system has been swamped with applicants.

Many Canadians trying to apply for Employment Insurance Thursday found they could not.

The government’s Service Canada application system was so overloaded it couldn’t handle all the traffic.

Nanaimo resident and hairstylist Lucinda Lacouvee was among those trying to apply.

Her last day of work was Saturday and today she went to Nanaimo’s Service Canada building to apply for Employment Insurance (EI) in person after trying online for three days.

“They were helpful but the system’s down. It’s overwhelmed. Too many Canadians now are trying to apply,” she said.

It’s a predicament many found themselves in today.

“I just clicked the apply online button and it just kept taking me to an unreachable screen saying that the website was unreachable,” said Derrick van Viegen, who was laid off yesterday from a printing company.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says many have then been calling his office.

“People are trying to figure how to access those services and so they’re having difficulty and we’re getting tons of calls to our office and lots of emails. People are really stressed out,” said Manly.

The federal government wasn’t able to provide numbers on how many have applied for EI but the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce says a new survey shows their members are pessimistic.

“In excess of 90 per cent of businesses recognize that they will be negatively impacted by this crisis,” said Kim Smythe, the Chamber’s CEO.

And business owners say there will be job losses and temporary closures. The chamber says it applauds the federal government’s actions but would like to see even more help.

“We’re looking for what the province is going to come forward with to shore up what the feds are doing but I’m afraid this is bigger than most of us realize,” said Smythe.

The Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce is now working on a media campaign to buy local but many are just worried about making ends meet.

“I do have a car payment and a mortgage so I’m okay but even if I get EI, that’s probably four weeks without a paycheque,” said Lacouvee.

Locouvee says she hopes she’s able to apply for EI soon because it will give her some peace of mind during an otherwise stressful time.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Trudeau announced an $82 million package to help Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement Service Canada says it’s “currently experiencing a significant increase in the number of Employment Insurance applications that are received on a daily and weekly basis. Due to this increase, we recommend that Canadians experiencing difficulties accessing the EI application system continue to reattempt as the situation is temporary.”

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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