By RYAN KING
PORT AUX BASQUES – The pandemic has presented many challenges, and among them is visiting federal institutions for help, like the area’s Service Canada building.
For months there have been social media posts that have expressed frustration at the difficulty of going to the office to receive help with their employment insurance and other documentation. Residents have consistently voiced their concerns on Facebook saying that those who need medication, food, or bills paid can be pressed for time, and that availing of the toll-free number does not often resolve their situation fast enough.
Some have also expressed confusion as to why another federal institution like Canada Post remains open to in-person help while the Service Canada does not. And other businesses like banks, grocery stores, and schools allow for in-person service too.
MP Gudie Hutchings (Long Range Mountains) addressed these concerns via e-mail.
“The past 14 months have been incredibly difficult for all of us, and especially for folks who rely on accessing federal government services like Service Canada offices,” wrote Hutchings.
Hutchings noted that the Service Canada building in Port aux Basques remains open from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and is closed only from 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. However, while they are open, people are admitted by appointment only to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“This is for the safety of both Service Canada’s clients and their employees. It helps reduce the number of people in the building at any one time, and reduces the length of visits since folks aren’t waiting in the building too long for their appointments. Both of these, less time, and less people, have been shown to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” wrote Hutchings.
Regarding the confusion as to why the Post Office is open to walk-in counter service, but the Service Canada building is not, Hutchings noted that a visit to the post office is usually quick, but a visit to Service Canada can take much longer. It is because of this need for a longer amount of time that a scheduled appointment is required.
Hutchings also explained that anyone can fill out an electronic request form on the Service Canada website, and an agent will call back within two business days to assist and answer any questions a person might have.
When asked how long these policies related to the pandemic will stay in place, Hutchings wrote that it is hard to say, just as it is hard to say how much longer the COVID-19 pandemic will last.
“However, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so hopefully these offices will be able to go back to normal operations soon.”