EI, EI, Oh…

waiting-for-money About a month ago, I mentioned that I had applied to EI (Employment Insurance) as a way to supplement my income after being laid off:

“I’ve applied for employment insurance, so I’m also waiting to see how that pans out. I’m worried that the fact I was on EI last summer is going to affect me (well, technically I was on Sickness Benefits, but it falls under the EI umbrella). Instead of starting a new claim, my previous claim was reactivated for some reason. So far, none of my numbers have changed in the system, even though my salary almost doubled between the job that just ended and the one from last year. The difference is roughly $500 more a month from EI, so obviously I’m anxious for this to be updated and for the money to actually start coming in.”

Well, I was right to worry. My claim from last year was opened on June 1 (2013), meaning that when I was laid off in April (2014), the claim was reactivated under “regular” EI instead of Sickness Benefits, because I still had weeks payable:

“If you started a new claim for EI benefits within the past 52 weeks, and there are weeks still payable, that claim will automatically be reactivated when you complete the EI Application online.” Source

So in April when I thought I was filling out a brand new claim, I was actually just re-opening the last one. (The one with the crappy numbers.) But I didn’t know that until the end of May when I suddenly received a small payment from EI. Normally, EI takes 4-6 week or longer to be processed, so I wasn’t excepted any money until mid-June or later.

I called customer service to ask about it – and was yelled at by the customer service rep. She told me that the application makes it perfectly clear that if I didn’t want my old claim to be reactivated that I was supposed to call to start a new one. This was NOT the case. Because I was already paranoid, I made sure to read everything on that application twice before answering. She continued to argue with me, stating that I had to have answered “yes” to a question that I know I answered “no” to.

(The question was whether or not I had been on EI before. I had foolishly assumed that Sickness Benefits were different and that there would be a follow-up question about this – since there are follow-up questions to everything on that application. So I answered “no”. Since there were no follow-up questions, I continued to fill out the rest of the application as per usual – but I probably should have stopped at this point and called them instead.)

She then explained to me that I would have to use up the rest of this claim (which thankfully was only for the month of May) and that on June 1st I could start a brand new claim using the better numbers from the college job. So on June 1st, I had to apply again

Late last week – 8 weeks after being laid off – my account was updated as follows:

“We have received new information on your claim but have not yet made a decision. We will make every effort to review this information by July 10, 2014 or the next business day.”

Meaning I still have to wait another 2-3 weeks before I find out if I even qualify for EI this time ’round or not, let alone see any money from them.

I know that it’s kind of my own fault for not getting clarification before claiming this year, but it is so frustrating! The budget I had for the summer is a complete bust because I had assumed the all things EI would be sorted out by now, and that I would have some income again. Instead, I continue to wait – carefully watching every bank account I have and pinching every penny to makes ends meet as best I can, with no income.

To end this on a positive note, there is a slim chance that this little mix-up will actually benefit me in the future. Because this second claim started in June (instead of April), I am eligible to collect EI until the fall – just in case I don’t find a new job or get re-hired at the college and find myself still unemployed in October.

I hate waiting. How do you deal with waiting – especially when it comes to your finances?

Image credit: “The Waiting” by Ktoine is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Amanda Kay

Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.

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12 thoughts on “EI, EI, Oh…”

  1. I’m sorry the rep wasn’t helpful at all. Honestly, it sounds like something I would do! I really don’t like calling places to get confirmation on things in case it makes me look like an idiot, and I usually end up looking like a fool anyway. I also hate waiting – at this point, I’d like to start applying for jobs, but I already have a 2 week commitment in July where I won’t be here, so I’m better off waiting until that passes. Unfortunately, that’s almost a month away!

  2. The waiting game with EI is so frustrating. It’s drawn out, long, and annoying. I am lucky in that I’ve only ever had to apply for EI once, and it was relatively quick because there was nothing complicated at all about my claim and I was a first time claimer, but my fiance has had some complications with it before.

  3. I love finding other Canadian bloggers.

    I have a passionate hate for the CRA. I think they get off on making us squirm, and stress, and panic. Fortunately I’ve only ever had to apply for EI once (last summer), they were such an unbelievable nightmare. I worked part time for my parents company when I visited them, which wasn’t often. So when I got laid off from my full time job, they ended up harassing me, and my parents over the few hours a month that I worked for them. Thankfully I got rehired by the company that laid me off. I’m pretty sure it would have been months before I saw any money, IF I ever actually got approved.

    • I’ve heard other horror stories of people working part time while on EI – but they *encourage* us to do so, so I don’t get why they then hassle us for doing it?!
      It took 7 weeks last summer when I applied… I was hoping it’d be less, but who knows?


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