Dartmouth family touched by community help after EI glitch
Family friend starts online fundraiser to help Sarah and Justin Hunter
New parents Sarah and Justin Hunter received nerve-wracking news earlier this week when they got a letter from Service Canada stating Sarah's maternity employment insurance benefits were cut off six weeks early.
Hunter left work in her 26th week of pregnancy due to a complication with her pregnancy. She was on disability leave and was supposed to be receiving employment insurance until the birth of their baby, at which point her maternity benefits would begin.
But Hunter's benefits were mistakenly triggered six weeks before the birth of their son. Her maternity benefits, which were supposed to last until September, expired early.
The Dartmouth couple and their 10-month-old Mason were especially concerned about the timing of the news since Justin Hunter is off work too, recovering from an abdominal surgery.
"This has thrown a wrench into things," said Sarah Hunter. "We have zero money coming in to our house right now, and no idea how to pay anything coming up."
Hunter said she phoned Employment and Social Development Canada and was told the problem was resolved.
But on Saturday, she received a letter saying it would take up to three weeks just to start an investigation and there's no way of knowing how long the investigation will last.
Hunter said she was ready to start informing people that bills were going to be paid late when a friend stepped in to help.
"They're such hard workers and they've never asked anyone for help. So even the fact that she was saying they were really frustrated with everything going on just made me want to see what we could do," said Suzi Oram-Aylward, a friend of the family.
Oram-Aylward started an online fundraising effort, asking for $1,500. More than $800 had been raised as of Wednesday evening.
After one day, the Hunters are well on their way.
"It already puts us so much closer to being able to afford just even basic, like pay our power bill, get some groceries in the house," said Sarah Hunter.
She said some donors are anonymous. Her family is overwhelmed by the support of the community.
"The comments they're leaving are like, 'We want to see this young family get back on their feet.' It's just incredible. It restores your faith in humanity," she said.
Employment and Social Development Canada told CBC News it's looking into the case.