Tech glitch blocks some emergency loans for stranded Canadians



Some Canadians stranded abroad and desperately awaiting an emergency loan from the federal government have been told by Global Affairs Canada that a “technical problem” has prevented some loan applications from being received, and therefore processed, on a daily basis. eight-day period from March 26 to April 3.

The repayable loan of up to $ 5,000 is intended to help cash-strapped citizens book flights back to Canada and pay for basic expenses, such as hotels and food, until that they can go home. Some travelers have reported using their credit cards to the max on canceled flights and being unable to pay their hotel bills.

Loan seekers must prove that they have no other source of funds and that they had a plan to return home which was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel trapped,” said Montrealer Pepe Baiamonte, 36, who is stranded in Mexico. He applied for the emergency loan last week to pay for a flight back to Canada. He received no confirmation, so today he called the emergency response center in Ottawa.

“I spoke with this lady, and she told me they had my information but it’s like they didn’t submit it,” Baiamonte said.

Pepe Baiamonte, 36, asked for an emergency loan from the Canadian government to try to book a return flight from Mexico. (Submitted by Pepe Biamonte)

The Canadian government said it has so far disbursed $ 2.5 million in loans to 775 recipients under the COVID-19 Emergency Loans Program for Canadians Abroad. It processes about 1,600 additional loan applications, according to Global Affairs.

However, it is not known how many apps have been blocked by technical issues.

Some travelers should reapply

Two travelers gave CBC News identical emails they received from Global Affairs on Friday.

“Earlier today, we discovered and fixed a technical issue that prevented certain web forms from being sent after submission,” the emails said. “Web forms submitted between March 26, 9:15 a.m. (EDT) and April 3, 4:30 p.m. (EDT) may have been impacted and not be received by our teams.”

The email also stated that anyone who applied for a loan but did not receive a response from a consular official would have to resubmit an online form. People who have received a response do not need to resubmit their loan application.

CBC News requested more information from Global Affairs, but did not receive a response. His most recent media statement did not mention the technical issue.

Security concerns

Natasha Briggs, 27, who was stranded in Guatemala for a few weeks and applied for the loan, fears the technical issue has compromised the security of her personal information.

“How did you lose my information? And who has it? There was debit card information, bank account information, passport information… I hope it didn’t fall into the wrong hands.” , Briggs said.

Briggs had rushed to the airport in late March to try to catch a government-organized repatriation flight, but soon found out she didn’t have enough room on her credit card to pay for the plane ticket . A consular worker helped her apply for the loan at the airport, then let her get on the plane back to Canada.

This view of an empty Ottawa airport on April 3 shows the effect of border restrictions and canceled flights due to the coronavirus outbreak. Some Canadian travelers are still struggling to get home. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

Now in mandatory self-isolation for 14 days in Victoria, B.C., Briggs considers herself lucky to have been granted a flight home, but she still wants to know the status of her loan application.

“This loan is supposed to pay for the theft, and eventually I’m sure they’re going to contact me and tell me I have to pay them back somehow, I mean, I hope. I don’t want to. find out. past the deadline I owe the government with interest. “

Briggs also said that other people stranded abroad who cannot even afford to eat are in much more urgent need of the money,

Global Affairs said its emergency call center responded to 837 calls and 3,816 emails from Canadians last Saturday alone.



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