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Canada As CRA braces for wave of COVID-19 benefits applications, call centres working at 'reduced capacity'

06:05  27 march  2020
06:05  27 march  2020 Source:   nationalpost.com

Service Canada offices to shutter for in-person services over COVID-19 concerns

  Service Canada offices to shutter for in-person services over COVID-19 concerns OTTAWA — The federal government is shutting down the network of in-person Service Canada centres over COVID-19 concerns. Some of the offices, such as one tucked inside Ottawa's city hall, have already started to close as confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased and workers were needed elsewhere, or felt uncomfortable about going in due to health concerns. The Liberals say the move, announced late Thursday night, shouldn't affect mostSome of the offices, such as one tucked inside Ottawa's city hall, have already started to close as confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased and workers were needed elsewhere, or felt uncomfortable about going in due to health concerns.

Coronavirus ( COVID - 19 ): Call centres . Individual and benefit enquiries lines. The CRA call centres will continue to be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m As a result, the CRA can only answer calls from those having issues filing their 2019 income tax and benefit return, getting their benefit payments or those

Ottawa expects around four million applications for the new benefit , a source within the Canada Revenue CERB will be available to “all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID - 19 ,” a press One of the first community transmission cases of COVID - 19 was diagnosed at his centre .

a sign on the side of a building: The headquarters of the Canada Revenue Agency in Ottawa. © Chris Roussakis/Postmedia/File The headquarters of the Canada Revenue Agency in Ottawa.

OTTAWA – The Canada Revenue Agency’s call centres experienced dropped calls and struggled to keep up with demand this week, just as it prepares to be flooded with calls from people seeking to apply for new COVID-19 emergency benefits.

“While we have identified our call centres as a critical service and many call centre agents are continuing to report to work, the CRA is operating with a reduced capacity,” CRA spokesperson Dany Morin told the National Post in an email.

“Telephony infrastructure as a whole has also been strained, affecting the reliability of telephone telecommunications across the country. As a combined result, we have been unable to respond to calls as quickly as we would like,” he added.

Liberals rejig benefits for workers affected by COVID-19

  Liberals rejig benefits for workers affected by COVID-19 OTTAWA — The federal government is repackaging two previously promised benefits for Canadians whose working lives are disrupted by COVID-19. Instead, the Liberals say there will now be one benefit to provide $2,000 per month for four months to workers whose income drops to zero because of the pandemic, including if they have been furloughed by their employers but technically still have jobs. Speaking in the Senate, Finance Minister Bill Morneau told senators that the move should help get money to affected workers faster than under the previously announced model.

TORONTO -- The extraordinary economic hit caused by the COVID - 19 pandemic has governments of all stripes offering unprecedented assistance to affected Applications are expected to open in April. The government has said that applications will be able to be made through CRA MyAccount or My

This benefit will provide income support to: Workers , including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID - 19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits . Employers are responsible for protecting the health and safety of employees at work .

In other words, CRA says the strain put on Canada’s telephony infrastructure by millions of Canadians suddenly isolating at home and socializing mainly by phone or internet cut down on the agency’s ability to accept calls earlier this week.

That means that calls by Canadians to the agency were being cut off before ever reaching an agent.

“At the moment, the issues that were restricting our call volumes appear to have been addressed, but we continue to monitor and work with our partners to ensure phone services are running optimally,” Morin assured on Wednesday evening.

Liberals rejig benefits for workers affected by COVID-19

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The incubation period for COVID - 19 is typically five to six days but may range from two to 14 days the disease progresses, indications manifest in both lungs in 88% of so- called "late patients" in the study Preventive measures to reduce the chances of infection include staying at home, avoiding

They can already reduce working days lost due to illness and stop or slow the spread of COVID - 19 if it arrives at one of your workplaces. o Ensure that face masks1 and / or paper tissues are available at your workplaces, for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work , along with closed bins for

But this week’s issue arise as the department braces itself for an estimated four million applications for the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) that it will be administering starting next week.

Announced Tuesday, this aid measure will send $2,000 (before tax) monthly for up to four months straight into the bank accounts of most Canadians financially affected by COVID-19.

Though the department will be encouraging CERB recipients to apply through CRA’s online My Account portal, the department will also be accepting applications by phone. Thus, the timing of these issues could not be worse.

“The Government understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has left people feeling vulnerable and uncertain. The Canada Revenue Agency CRA recognizes the significant impact that the situation is having on Canadian taxpayers, and takes its role in providing the critical services, which Canadians need, very seriously”, the department stated.

All Service Canada Locations Are Closing Down & Going Online Or By Phone Only

  All Service Canada Locations Are Closing Down & Going Online Or By Phone Only You can't get help in person anymore.The announcement that all of the locations in Canada would be closed came late on March 26.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. An agency of the European Union. At present, there is no evidence of transmission of COVID - 19 from mother to baby occurring during pregnancy. Current research links COVID - 19 to certain types of bat as the original source, but does not exclude

COVID - 19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. This guidance also provides planning considerations for community spread of COVID - 19 . Employees can take steps to protect themselves at work and at home. Older people and people with serious chronic medical conditions

In the hopes of reducing the stress on its telephone lines, CRA is now asking Canadians to limit their calls only to specific topics: filing of a 2019 income tax and benefit return, benefits, or issues related to setting up My Account.

“In light of these extraordinary circumstances […] we ask that Canadians consider calling back at a later time for all other enquiries,” Morin added. He also referred anyone seeking non-account specific tax information to CRA’s website.

Canada’s wireless regulator confirmed to the National Post that these are indeed extraordinary times when it comes to traffic on telecommunication networks.

“It is possible that Internet and mobile networks become congested or are temporarily unavailable due to the exceptional circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented Patricia Valladao, a spokesperson for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Bell, Rogers, Telus, Shaw and Vidéotron all assured the National Post Thursday that their networks are fully operational and up for the challenge. But they did say there have been issues when it comes to calls from one network to another.

Ontarians call for malls to close as coronavirus continues to spread

  Ontarians call for malls to close as coronavirus continues to spread Those concerned with the risk of COVID-19 are expressing anger and frustration that major shopping malls remain open despite health officials recommending everyone adopt social distancing measures. Christina Zeko, of Mississauga, Ont., launched an online petition calling for malls to shut down, and some 2,300 people have signed. "I'm extremely disappointed and upset," Zeko said in a news release from Change.org, where the online petition is posted. "Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, I believe our government should take further action and close all shopping centres in Ontario.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that 46 out of 54 African countries have reported cases of Covid - 19 The president of the Association of Resident Doctors in the FCT, Dr. Roland Aigbovo, called for doctors to suspend their eight-day strike and return to work

COVID - 19 /Flu clinics are being established within all local health districts across NSW to assess and diagnose patients with possible COVID - 19 infections and other respiratory illness such as influenza as we approach the winter season. NSW Health is also expanding the laboratory capacity across public

“As an example, a call made between two subscribers of the same provider is working, but a call made from provider A to the network of provider B could encounter connectivity issues. The situation affects all providers. All telecommunications companies are working together to increase the capacity of inter-carrier calls and to resolve the situation as quickly as possible,” Merick Séguin, a spokesperson for Vidéotron, explained via email.

But COVID-19 pandemic or not, this is far from the first time CRA’s call centre experiences glitches that prevent Canadians from reaching an agent.

In 2017, a scathing report from Canada’s auditor general revealed that CRA blocked more than half of the calls it received because their phone system could not keep up with demand.

The audit also concluded that callers often received faulty information from CRA agents.

“Based on our test results, agents gave taxpayers information that was not accurate almost 30 percent of the time. While the Agency reported that it met its targets for both access and timeliness, its performance measures were incomplete and its call centres’ results were overstated”, the report concluded.

More recently in Jan 2020, a report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) found that CRA was still regularly providing wrong information to callers… after making them sit on hold for over an hour.

“In addition to increased wait times, the accuracy of information provided by CRA agents has decreased [from the previous report in 2017], with only 60 per cent of calls receiving a complete response, down from 69 per cent in 2017,” wrote the CFIB in its report.

• Email: cnardi@postmedia.com | Twitter: ChrisGNardi

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