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Activist/Volunteer Sarp Kizir. Photo: Jen Bernard.

Restaurant workers, owners and volunteers created this guide to EI benefits amid food industry layoffs

By Greggory Clark on March 20, 2020

Among those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ottawa’s food industry is taking a beating. Following unprecedented amounts of layoffs, bar and restaurant workers were left to navigate the Employment Insurance claim process—with much uncertainty surrounding if and when government would update EI rules to reflect these unique circumstances which led to restaurants closing.

We saw on Instagram that the owners of North & Navy had set up a makeshift EI application “command centre” out of their restaurant, which remains closed for dinner service; and offers takeout for the time being. They opened their laptops and picked up their smartphones to take questions from stranded industry workers.

When Apartment613 contributor Sarp Kizir caught wind of their initiative, he sprung into action by connecting more workers with the folks at NoNa, whose generous offer extended beyond employees of their own restaurant.

If you’ve ever made an application for EI, you already know it’s complicated. Today’s workers had questions about access codes, tips, what to do if they had multiple part-time jobs; if they weren’t sick but simply laid off… All scenarios that are unique but couldn’t be answered right away by the government, because their phone lines were so congested. “People were on hold for over and hour to ask a 10-second question,” says Sarp.

Sarp kept in touch with folks as they were filling out EI applications, in real time, so he could validate and aggregate all of the lessons learned into a single Google Doc that’s available for anyone to reference to help with their EI claims.

Only by the end of Monday, March 16th, did new information and details about the EI claim process really start coming together. Thankfully, this collaborative Google Doc can be of assistance to many restaurant workers; saving them time and hopefully reducing stress levels in this trying time.

You can share this with the restaurant workers you know.