Premier admits 'room for improvements' in rollout of B.C.'s COVID benefit program
A man wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 is silhouetted while walking on Ambleside Pier at sunset, in West Vancouver on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
VANCOUVER -- Questioned about delays in the rollout of a COVID-19 recovery benefit, B.C.'s premier said he knew it hadn't been perfect.
Eligible British Columbians were promised a cheque from the province during the NDP's election campaign, and the premier set Christmas as his target date.
The amount promised was $1,000 for families earning less than $125,000 a year, and $500 for individuals who make less than $62,500.
But many had issues applying for the one-time, tax-free payment when the site went live in mid-December, and some are still waiting for their money weeks later.
One of the people still waiting nearly a month after applying told CTV News Vancouver he got a confirmation number through email, and called the provincial hotline after two weeks. The call-taker told him to keep waiting, he said.
He said he's confused because his son got his money just three days after submitting an application.
At a news conference Thursday, Premier John Horgan was asked by CTV News whether he felt he'd fulfilled his campaign promise to get the money to residents as quickly as possible.
The premier said yes, but admitted the rollout could have been better.
"There's always room for improvements," he said.
"But as I understand it, 1.4 million British Columbians have been approved. $6.45 million has already left the treasury and is in the bank accounts of British Columbians."
He said he's aware of the challenges, and has acknowledged them in previous interviews.
But he claims he came back to work in January to a "pile of messages" from people who were grateful that they got the money within days of applying.
"That's not the story for everyone, but that's the story of the overwhelming number of British Columbians," he said.
"Could we have done better? Of course we could. But I'm confident that the vast majority of British Columbians – at least 1.4 million of them – are pretty happy with the way the program rolled out."