Technical difficulties with the Yukon government’s information management system are being blamed for a delay in payments to low-income seniors.
Financial assistance from the Yukon Senior Income Supplement (YSIS) is usually deposited on the 15th of every month but it didn’t happen last week.
“We’ve been working to replace [the information management system] for a while, but it quit over the last month. We did our utmost to kind of reboot it, get it going again, and it really was not cooperating,” said Kaila deBoer, director of social supports at the Department of Health and Social Services.
On Monday, deBoer said that a new system is now in place so seniors should receive payment anytime between Monday and next week.
She added that as soon as the department found out the money wasn’t being delivered, it tried to communicate that to people.
The government issued a news release late Friday afternoon saying it was “working to resolve delays in YSIS payments,” however no more information was available until Monday morning.
deBoer said the government was sorry.
“We recognize that for individuals who are low income, having a delay is unfortunate,” she said.
Upsetting, annoying and demeaning
That didn’t make Linda Hilton feel any better.
The long-time Whitehorse resident is one of the thousands of seniors who did not receive the YSIS payment last week.
She said when she contacted the Yukon government to find out about the payment not coming through on Friday, she was told there were some delays with the system and the money might not come at all this month.
“It’s really upsetting, it’s annoying, it’s demeaning. It’s like not being counted as a valuable member of society,” she said. “I feel that people [who] don’t have deep pockets but still vote were ignored. I feel ignored and I feel upset and angry about it.”
Hilton, who is currently living paycheck-to-paycheck, relies on the money to buy basic items such as food and gas.
“It helps my bottom line every month,” she said.
Hilton’s fixed income comes from YSIS, which is less than $200 monthly, Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan.
Gov’t should be more proactive
Yukon NDP Leader Kate White said the government should have been proactive when they found out the money was not going to reach people’s accounts on the 15th.
“I get that that can happen. But when people are counting on [money], it just is really hard to accept that as an answer,” she said.
White said this is an opportunity to look at different ways to solve the low-income problem in the territory.
“I think this is just an example of the knife-edge that people are walking between survival and not surviving,” she said. “Everyone deserves a level of economic comfort.”
‘You never know when you’re going to end up in this situation’
Hilton said that for low-income individuals like her, not receiving the YSIS payment is a critical matter.
“You never know when you’re going to end up in this situation. One little bit of money doesn’t come and boom, you’re over the edge into worse scenarios,” she said.
“I really feel that people who live below the poverty line or just working poor people just don’t get much consideration, we don’t seem to be regarded as whole people.”
According to Statistics Canada, in 2020, there were over six million people in the country aged 65 and older who are low-income status based on their income after tax.
“That’s a terrible statistic and I never thought that I would be part of this, but I am,” said Hilton.
“I recommend, heartily, that everybody [who is] working, save as much as you can because it’s never going to be enough,” she said.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Hospital running at limited capacity in Canada’s Yukon territory, CBC News
Greenland: Greenland to reduce services amidst staffing shortages in health care system, Eye on the Arctic
Sweden: Fewer people suffering strokes in Sweden, Radio Sweden
United States: Indigenous students in Alaska get hands-on medical experience at nursing camp, Alaska Public Media.