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

Canada Revenue Agency, Coronavirus

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

Canada Revenue Agency, Coronavirus

3/27/2020

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

Calls to the agency were being cut off before ever reaching an agent due to the ‘the strain put on Canada’s telephony infrastructure by millions of Canadians’

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. 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. 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. At the moment, the issues that were restricting our call volumes appear to have been addressed 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. We ask that Canadians consider calling back at a later time for all other enquiries “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 Read more: National Post

Send your application for COVID-19 benefits Online!!! CRA indicated that they expected to be able to handle all these demands. What a laugh! They can't even handle questions from people regarding the tax code. They are hopeless. This will be a boondoggle. Shocking. Crackerjack reporting as always. Press pause on everything. Just follow the money demand all the way to the bank. Everyone just stop, and wait.

Implementation is not a strength of the Liberal Government. Understandable given circumstances

Science summary: A look at novel coronavirus research around the globeThousands of scientists around the world are working on problems raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. I just hope the various researchers are not working in their usual silos trying to be the 'winner' or Nobel prize winner. Cooperation would be useful to the world. CNN CBC BBCWorld

Halifax contact centre employee calls for temporary closure after COVID-19 diagnosis at workplaceAccording to the employee, more than 100 staff members generally work on the same floor, but accommodations have been made to account for social-distancing orders.

N.L. legislators set aside funds, raise borrowing capacity in response to COVID-19 pandemicThe amendments include protections for employees’ jobs if they must take time away from work as a result of COVID-19 and ensuring renters cannot be evicted if they are unable to pay rent

COVID-19: St. Paul’s Hospital adds automated testing system to COVID-19 fightCOVID\u002D19: St. Paul’s Hospital adds automated testing system to COVID\u002D19 fight

'Slow and steady' approach key to preventing second wave of COVID-19: expertsNew modelling research suggests that prematurely lifting physical distancing measures may lead to a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 cases in Wuhan, China, signaling the need for a ‘slow and steady’ approach to flattening the curve in Canada, according to experts. What's the second wave the first one is bad enough. If it's worse than the first wave don't tell me than, I don't want to know

PM Trudeau warns of COVID-19 emergency benefit 'scam'They are the scam Trudeau is the scam.



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