EI blues

So as I got laid off, I qualify for EI. Which is great — I’ve been paying into it for a while, why not get something back? And it’s pretty straightforward what I want. I want EI to help me kickstart my own business. They have all sorts of programs to do this, according to their website. There appears to be only one caveat: you’re not actually able to do any work for the first 3 months of EI, even if you wanted to. Why? Because they require you to take 10-12 weeks of full-time courses. I’d assumed that in a business-enabling program, they’d recognize that taking 3 months off is not always an option. And of course, if you don’t do the program, and you happen to be making just enough to squeak by, you can’t get EI. So you’re in this kind of catch-22.

To boot, I’ve had no end of troubles using the system. It’s totally geared towards people going back to work for someone else. Depsite many protestations to supporting the entrepreneur, enter in on Teledec that you’re self-employed, and suddenly you have to talk to a person. This person will take your info, hem and haw, and then declare that she’ll have to check whether you’re still eligible for EI (because likely, you make at least $100/week, which is too much).

There’s also, supposedly, programs geared for youth that I qualify for. However, most of these entail small-business loans that I don’t want. I’d take a grant to help me get started, sure, but I don’t want to go into debt to start my business. What if it fails? Then I’m hooped!

To top all this off, today has been a particularly bad experience: I had to talk to someone on the phone. I got shunted from automated system to automated system to voice mail. Finally, I get told this ‘The call centre is currently closed. Our hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 8am to 4:25pm’. I check my clock: 8:15 am. So I call back a little later. And then a little later still. Finally, at 9:45, I get through to a person, who seemed somewhat confused as to why I thought that someone would be there at 8am. She of course, after the afore-mentioned hemming & hawing, tells me to call this Employment Access Centre. Which I do. They tell me that I’ve 2 weeks from my claim’s start date to get a hold of them (which is apparently completely untrue, I’ve since learned). So I rush off to this resource centre, having been told that it might take 6 hours to get through everything. Once I get there, it’s totally empty, to the point that no one can help me. So I fill out a form, and now have an appointment for sometime in Mid-April, in which they’ll probably tell me that they can’t help me, and I won’t be getting any EI, and will be left to my own devices. And to top it all off, they made me miss this lecture that I really wanted to attend over at ECIAD.

It’s things like this that make me want to say whatever it is they want to hear so I can get some money to fund my next development cycle

10 Replies to “EI blues”

  1. jeez, Steve, haven’t you learned that the more honest and forthcoming you are with a government agency, (especially EI!) the less help you get? It’s a system that makes you want to be dishonest, I would have to agree. Pretty pathetic.

  2. jeez, Steve, haven’t you learned that the more honest and forthcoming you are with a government agency, (especially EI!) the less help you get? It’s a system that makes you want to be dishonest, I would have to agree. Pretty pathetic.

  3. Allow me to share my own experience as a beauraucrat with the UBC AMS. I was a finance commissioner. One task of mine was to approve budgets for all the various UBC clubs for the upcoming fiscal year. I also sat on a grant comittee that decided whether or not to give money to support various club projects.

    While approving budgets, I had guidelines to follow.

    Rule 1)
    Clubs can not submit a budget that plans to leave the next year in deficit.

    Rule 2)
    Clubs can not list as income AMS grant money that has not yet been approved.

    Rule 3)
    Grants requests will only be considered if clubs have submitted budgets for the coming fiscal year.

    Rule 4)
    Clubs that do not submit budgets will have their accounts frozen.

    All of which sound like sensible rules. But they do not cover all situations:

    One day a club submits a budget that claims to balance out at $0 but lists an AMS grant as income. I can’t approve the budget because it relies on the expection of a grant. I explain this to the club, and they try to show me how legitimate their grant request is.

    Because I sit on the comittee, I know the grant requirements and that they are an ideal candidate for the grant request. It’s a sure thing that will take 15 to 30 seconds for the comittee to approve. Still, I don’t have the authority to approve the grant by myself. And so I can’t accept their budget.

    I explained the system clearly, explaining that they need to prepare a budget that did not rely on grant money. I hoped they would read between the lines and fudge their budget until their grant had been approved. But they insisted on being 100% honest, “but this really is our plan, we know that we will get the grant. If you agree that we will get the grant, why don’t you just approve our budget?”

    I believe the rules are sensible as policy, and I believe in following them. I admit they aren’t perfect, but when I encounter imperfections I try to work around them without making exceptions that I do not have the authority to make.

    Their insistence to the absolute truth put me in a tough situation. To make an exception, I would have to do something worse that submit an insincere budget. I would basically have to just ignore completely the clear and explicit guidelines I was suppossed to be following by stamping my approval on a written document that I was accountable for. Or I could accept a budget that I knew the club did not intend to implement, and thus wasn’t a 100% sincere budget.

    Obviously the latter choice is the lesser of all evils, if an evil at all. But… the club treasurer didn’t want to blemish his conscience by submitting an insincere fiscal plan, instead he wanted me to disregard AMS bylaws and grant his club an exception.

    In the end, I was forced to reject his budget, and freeze the clubs finances. At last, the club submitted an alternate budget, which I promptly approved as valid. The clubs account was unfrozen, they applied for a grant, and recieved it, and did exactly what they said they wanted to do in their initial invalid budget.

    That’s how beauraucracy works. It’s a crappy system, but it’s better than no system. Read between the lines and play along. Follow your conscience and use your judgement in how far you take the fudging. I’m sure you have the sense to know how far is too far, and violates the spirit of these policies. I can’t define how far is too far, but do what you gotta do, don’t be a stickler!

  4. Allow me to share my own experience as a beauraucrat with the UBC AMS. I was a finance commissioner. One task of mine was to approve budgets for all the various UBC clubs for the upcoming fiscal year. I also sat on a grant comittee that decided whether or not to give money to support various club projects.

    While approving budgets, I had guidelines to follow.

    Rule 1)
    Clubs can not submit a budget that plans to leave the next year in deficit.

    Rule 2)
    Clubs can not list as income AMS grant money that has not yet been approved.

    Rule 3)
    Grants requests will only be considered if clubs have submitted budgets for the coming fiscal year.

    Rule 4)
    Clubs that do not submit budgets will have their accounts frozen.

    All of which sound like sensible rules. But they do not cover all situations:

    One day a club submits a budget that claims to balance out at $0 but lists an AMS grant as income. I can’t approve the budget because it relies on the expection of a grant. I explain this to the club, and they try to show me how legitimate their grant request is.

    Because I sit on the comittee, I know the grant requirements and that they are an ideal candidate for the grant request. It’s a sure thing that will take 15 to 30 seconds for the comittee to approve. Still, I don’t have the authority to approve the grant by myself. And so I can’t accept their budget.

    I explained the system clearly, explaining that they need to prepare a budget that did not rely on grant money. I hoped they would read between the lines and fudge their budget until their grant had been approved. But they insisted on being 100% honest, “but this really is our plan, we know that we will get the grant. If you agree that we will get the grant, why don’t you just approve our budget?”

    I believe the rules are sensible as policy, and I believe in following them. I admit they aren’t perfect, but when I encounter imperfections I try to work around them without making exceptions that I do not have the authority to make.

    Their insistence to the absolute truth put me in a tough situation. To make an exception, I would have to do something worse that submit an insincere budget. I would basically have to just ignore completely the clear and explicit guidelines I was suppossed to be following by stamping my approval on a written document that I was accountable for. Or I could accept a budget that I knew the club did not intend to implement, and thus wasn’t a 100% sincere budget.

    Obviously the latter choice is the lesser of all evils, if an evil at all. But… the club treasurer didn’t want to blemish his conscience by submitting an insincere fiscal plan, instead he wanted me to disregard AMS bylaws and grant his club an exception.

    In the end, I was forced to reject his budget, and freeze the clubs finances. At last, the club submitted an alternate budget, which I promptly approved as valid. The clubs account was unfrozen, they applied for a grant, and recieved it, and did exactly what they said they wanted to do in their initial invalid budget.

    That’s how beauraucracy works. It’s a crappy system, but it’s better than no system. Read between the lines and play along. Follow your conscience and use your judgement in how far you take the fudging. I’m sure you have the sense to know how far is too far, and violates the spirit of these policies. I can’t define how far is too far, but do what you gotta do, don’t be a stickler!

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