Local politicians’ constituency offices have been flooded with calls for help during the COVID-19 pandemic.
St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud, Morinville-St. Albert MLA Dale Nally and St. Albert MP Michael Cooper say they have had a massive increase in calls since the coronavirus outbreak and economic fallout hit Canada.
The politicians all say they are here to help their constituents navigate provincial and federal programs during this difficult time.
“Our number one priority in this crisis is to ensure Albertans are supported, and that includes income supports for Albertans, which is why we put in that emergency funding,” Nally said, referencing funding the province approved to help Albertans stay afloat until federal employment insurance kicks in.
He added they are currently getting calls about “everything under the sun.”
All three politicians say they are hearing from residents who are self employed or who have been laid off.
Nally and the other two politicians said they are available to help anyone having trouble navigating or engaging with government agencies or to point residents in the right direction when they don’t know where to go.
“If they're having any difficulty from their utility provider, because of non-payment ... they could call. Any anything that they're having a problem with, we'd be more than happy to work with along,” Nally said.
Renaud said she is hearing from many residents who are also scared of catching COVID-19 or concerned about loved ones being exposed at work.
The MLA said the best thing to do if concerned is stay home.
Renaud, who serves as the official opposition critic for community and social services, said she is hearing from many Albertans who are renting and are concerned about paying their rent on April 1.
The MLA said many families are also calling concerned their kids and family members will not be able to access their disability support services through the online options and are concerned about keeping their services until life goes back to normal.
Renaud said her office, like the other two politicians, are using their office as a referral service for anyone who needs help tracking down help and services.
Cooper is also helping his constituents navigate government systems, including getting residents onto the federal EI program. In the last week one million Canadians have applied for EI.
“We've been inundated, as you can imagine from constituents who have been laid off, expecting to be laid off, who need access to EI, who access to credit and need access to any number of federal programs or services,” Cooper said.
The MP is also trying to support his constituents stranded overseas.
Cooper has heard from 15 constituents who are stranded out of the country in places like Lebanon and Guatemala.
Cooper said four St. Albert residents are aboard the MS Maasdam Holland America Cruise ship and trying to get home.
“They've been stuck on the cruise for, I think now approaching 20 days.”
“They had been denied entry at I believe four different ports. At this time, the cruise is heading to San Diego,” Cooper said.
Cooper said it remains to be seen if they will be let off the ship and then if they are able to get back into the country.
The MP is helping connect all of his stranded constituents with Global Affairs Canada.
“Anyone who is out of Canada and is trying to get back to Canada they should as a starting point register as a Canadian traveling abroad with Global Affairs Canada. So Global Affairs is aware of their whereabouts and how to get out of contact them,” Cooper said.
Canadians can register at international.gc.ca or look up Global Affairs Canada to get more information.
While constituency offices are closed, Cooper, Nally and Renaud are still available by phone or email.