Self-employed Calgary man wants to know why he's being denied provincial emergency money

Dustin Milne is usually quite busy this time of year, ramping up for busy summers with his audio-visual company Digital Media Integrations.

Dustin Milne says he filled out his application in a way that was identical to others who received payment

Dustin Milne owns an audio-visual company and was counting on a busy summer until the coronavirus pandemic hit home. (Dustin Milne)

Dustin Milne is usually quite busy this time of year, ramping up for busy summers with his audio-visual company Digital Media Integrations.

But Milne's contracts — which include the Calgary Stampede, various concert productions and projects in the restaurant scene — started falling away one by one by the second week of March.

"It was obviously the right call to make but that basically took my income from being, you know, looking like it was going to be a really good year, to nothing," Milne said.

So last week, when the Alberta government announced emergency one-time funding for people who have been directed by a health authority to self-isolate and are unable to work, Milne breathed a sigh of relief.

Milne hasn't been directed to self-isolate by 811 but said he is following provincial government recommendations regarding self-isolation, and said he knows of others in the same boat who applied for and received the funding.

Eligible Albertans can receive $1,146

Under the plan as outlined, eligible recipients of the funding receive a one-time payment of $1,146 through an Interac e-transfer. If approved, the government has said payments are processed within 24 to 48 hours.

Albertans are asked to create a digital ID, which is required to complete the application. As part of the verification process, applicants' identities are verified with information from their drivers' licence or ID card.

All of that seemed straightforward to Milne as he started the application process.

But due to so many other Albertans trying to access the portal at the same time, Milne said it took six days to access the website.

When he finally got through, he said he waited in a 12-hour queue. 

Payment denied

But after the long wait, the response from the government arrived much quicker. 

"I got the confirmation email and within 12 minutes I got the denial," Milne said.

Milne said he tried a dozen more times and received the same result. 

Dustin Milne says he doesn't understand why his application for emergency funding was denied. (Dustin Milne)

The possible reasons given for denial were either that he may be under 18-years-old — Milne is 34 — or that his self-isolation may have started more than 14 days before the application was submitted.

Milne said he even compared his questionnaire answers with friends who did receive support and their answers were identical to his.

Milne said he called his local MLA and was told to keep reapplying.

Application being 'periodically shut down'

Many Albertans have had trouble since the government launched the emergency isolation funding on March 25.

The program first ran into issues when a flood of simultaneous applications crashed the system as thousands of Albertans responded to the offer.

At that time, the province said it was working on expanding the system's capacity. 

The application was unavailable on Saturday afternoon, with a message posted to the website stating that "the system is working but we need to periodically shut it down in order to manage the flow of applications. We will make it available as soon as possible."

The website also asks those who are having issues to call Alberta Connects at 403-310-4455, which is open daily from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

CBC News did not receive a response to requests for comment on Milne's situation from the province by press time.

"I don't know what I'm going to have for money in a month, a year. Who knows how long this is going to take," Milne said. "So while they're waving the flag of, 'Hey, we're here to help and we're trying to give you support,' I would like to get it."


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