Coronavirus: Ontario woman receives government benefits after Global News report

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.

“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.

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.

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.

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“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.

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

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.”

“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.

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.

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

“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.

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