Posted on Mar 18, 2021
UCP BLOCK TAXI DRIVERS FROM ACCESS TO CRITICAL WORKER BENEFIT AND OTHER PANDEMIC SUPPORTS
CALGARY - Taxi drivers from across Alberta are expressing their extreme disappointment and feel deliberately left out by the UCP, after being denied eligibility for the Critical Worker Benefit and the Small Medium Enterprise Relaunch grant.
Representatives and leaders from various taxi drivers’ associations were told by the UCP that taxi drivers could apply for the Small Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant as sole proprietors. However, when grant applications opened, they found they were excluded from applying because taxi drivers were not ordered to temporarily close or curtail operations through a COVID-19 public health order.
“Taxi drivers have been getting Albertans where they need to go throughout the entire pandemic. They have been getting people to the grocery store, to medical appointments, and all essential places we need to be,” said NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray. “The UCP are excluding them from the Critical Worker Benefit after calling them essential one year ago and unfortunately they are not the only group that have been left feeling this way. Jason Kenney and the UCP are completely out of touch with Alberta’s workforce.”
The Critical Worker Benefit opened up applications allowing employers to apply for their eligible employees to receive the $1,200 lump sum on February 17. The program immediately saw a host of issues and backlash from Albertans. This included employees' private information being visible to other applicants on the government's web portal, a complicated and confusing application process that was met with harsh criticism by employers, and a government feedback email having to be set up to deal with the complaints from over seventy different front-line working groups who discovered they did not fit into the eligibility.
In the Labour budget debate it was also revealed that over 100 short-term contractors had been hired at the last minute to administer the Critical Worker Benefit.
“These essential workers were told by the UCP that they would qualify for the Small Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant being sole proprietors,” said NDP Critic for Multiculturalism Jasvir Deol.
“That was a lie. Taxi drivers were directed to apply for COVID-19 supports in place from the federal government, but given Alberta’s public health guidelines they did not qualify. Now, the UCP are leaving them out of this benefit. Taxi drivers feel deliberately ignored and pushed aside by this government, and I don’t blame them for being frustrated and angry,”
The NDP Official Opposition wrote to the Minister of Labour and Immigration, requesting immediate changes to the eligibility for either the Critical Worker Benefit or the SME Relaunch grant, and still have not received a reply. The online application portal for the Critical Worker Benefit closes on March 19.