Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More letters To The BLOGMeister

I thought you might be interested in reading the thoughts of some readers. Don't be bashful, send in your comments too.

Oh and have you told your family, friends and colleagues to check out my BLOG daily? If not, what are you waiting for!

To make it even easier for you, just send a list of people and I will send them out an email every day letting them know what the topics du jour are.

1) Provincial audits have always brought with them a great deal of anxiety, but this one is particularly difficult because it has hit the press. Heavy pressure has been placed on Ms. Warsh, transferred to Teresa Piruzza, placed upon the shoulders of middle management, who in turn have ‘cracked the whip’ on caseworkers. Many procedural changes have been introduced as a result of the recent audit findings, designed to reduce the occurrence of overpayments. OW cases must be monitored more closely now, and on a more frequent basis, so that potential overpayments can be identified earlier and hopefully prevented altogether.

Here are some of the reasons why overpayments occur or have occurred in the past:

First of all, approval of OW pending EI has never really been considered as overpayment, rather they are ‘assigned’, and usually get reimbursed. They are not entered into the computer system for collection. I do not believe that auditors see this as overpayment either. Occasionally, errors occur where the EI is not reimbursed and income is back dated; but, these overpayments do not represent the majority.

During the strike, an ‘approve everyone’ policy was adopted, since there was not enough trained staff available to manage and assess eligibility. Eligibility checks were not performed, and monies were issued for nearly everyone applying for or in receipt of Ontario Works. Upon returning after the strike, staff had to sort through the new files and audit the existing ones to determine ongoing eligibility. This was, and still is an ongoing task which must be performed while maintaining all other duties. The backlog from the strike and the current economic situation make the task all that much more difficult to complete in a timely fashion.

Since Ontario Works was introduced in 1997, active participation became a priority, and benefits that would assist participation were encouraged. Employment Related Expenses is one of the benefits that could be used at staff discretion for any ‘reasonable’ activity or employment need. Now, because of infrequent or irregular monitoring, ERE has been targeted as a benefit that has been overpaid. Transportation allowances or bus passes come from this fund, and has traditionally been issued for all employable participants. The fund could also be used for car repairs, grooming, equipment, etc. to remove some of the barriers to employment. Now, the department has put heavy restrictions on the use of this benefit, requiring verification of need for every dollar issued. In too many instances, it was determined that funds were issued when the participant was not attending any programs or actively participating in any activities.

Annual eligibility reviews were not being carried out in a timely fashion (this has always been a problem). Shortage of staff and time management issues are often to blame for this problem. Unfortunately, if there is an eligibility issue that goes unchecked or not reported, an overpayment continues to escalate until the review is completed. Simple issues can become large overpayments if not dealt with immediately, such as incorrect shelter costs entered in the system, or changes in income or assets. These are easily incurred, as many participants are unaware of how these areas can affect eligibility and don’t always report the change.

Some overpayments are incurred by fraud, where the participant knowingly withholds information that would affect eligibility. Usually, this means a failure to report changes in income or assets. Only a small portion of these cases are prosecuted as fraud; most are applied to overpayment.

Lastly, computer/human error can account for many overpayments. If not caught immediately, these errors can be costly. As an example, just a mistake in an effective date can create thousands of dollars in overpayment. Stress levels and adequate training can play a large part in addressing this problem.

I hope I was able to shed some light upon this issue of overpayments, and that you find the information useful. As for the Star, all they care about is their ‘Headline of the Day’, and are not necessarily concerned with the facts. That article had plenty of effect at the workplace, and morale is at an all time low.

It is no wonder that staff does not fight the battle with the cutbacks, privatization discussions, job losses and CUPE’s apparent lack of intestinal fortitude. They have been beaten into submission!

2) It is true when and individual applies in Windsor for money from Ontario Works while waiting for money from the EI program that individual must sign assignment forms against the EI funds and once the money starts flowing from the Federal Government,the assignments are honoured and deductions are made from that individual's EI cheque and paid back directly from the Federal Government to the Windsor Ontario Works Office.

3) Hi Ed, after reading your blog I have to write you to mention this. I was a fulltime student at St Clair College this past summer from May to Aug and I will tell you this. Everyday the students would come into class and tell other students to go to the welfare office and get a check BECAUSE while the strike was on they are just handing out the money, doing no checking or verifying. I know people who did this all through the strike. With a phoney address and all. I sat there as a mature student just shaking my head.

Its all to sad to be funny. I just wanted to tell you because it fit todays blog so well.

Thanks for your ear.

4) Nominations for 82 executive board is next week with voting in May! Could see change!

5) I wonder what percentage of the $530,000 is as a result of improperly approving people for the bridge loan by managers during the civic strike? When the trained and competent workers were walking the picket line, forced out by Eddie, the managers were inside approving people left and right because of the over whelming numbers applying because of the tremendous downturn in the economy. Just a thought.

6) Matty's price for the Ambassador Bridge just tripled that's if Harper still wants to buy it.

7) What's with Windsor Star FAILING TO PUBLISH all of our letters to the editor and now publishing the very same letter (minus only one sentence) to the editor twice within two weeks?

How often is this happening?

A bit of lobbying for Red Bull's $8MIL investment... This is shameful in my estimation.

Close our daycares to save $200,000 this year Mr Provincial Finance Minister but spend $4MIL to entertain the foolish masses? And to see my local newspaper help him do it just p***es me off!!!!! It is so very wrong to lead the public this way!!!!

Red Bull Air Race should be welcome February 27, 2010
... what they don't do is bring hundreds of thousands of people in to our downtown
area for almost a week.

Red Bull makes money for city February 11, 2010
... what they don't do is bring hundreds of thousands of people in to our downtown
area for almost a week.

8) [RE Bullying] THANK YOU....

Putting the correct label on this for the public to see is ABSOLUTELY INVALUABLE...

you've just reached more city staff, and others, in one blog than I have been able to in 10 years

9) When I read the article in the paper about the absentee councillors, we all knew that the mayor aimed this directly at Bill Marra. How very sad for Bill and his wife that they have to take this abuse. But we have come to realize that according to the mayor all is fair in love and his getting re-elected. Anyone who can read a newspaper, blog or listen to the news knows what Eddie's feelings are for Bill Marra. Now we know that Bill not only has to deal with the illness of his wife but also the petty, mean and wnwarrented attack on him. As usual the Windsor Star did their usual bang up job of doing anything in their power to help Eddie get re-elected.

10) Oh, that EDGRRRRRR....

I'm not a huge fan of ANYONE on the present council, but I can't fathom such unmitigated cruelty, especially out in the light where everyone could see... normally, this sort of abysmal behaviour happens in secret...

11) my only regret is that I didn't see through him BEFORE I voted for him first time around

12) Keep up the good work.

13) Arena results not surprising.

Years ago, when asked directly by Global Spectrum, a certain promoter in town told them that getting premium, revenue-generating shows at any new Windsor arena facility would be very difficult, if not impossible – and the reasons why. At the time, the reasons had nothing to do with the economy, and everything to do with how this business works. The reasons still have everything to do with how the business works – the economy is only exacerbating them, along with our biggest competitor, the Province of Ontario down there on Riverside Drive.

This certain promoter also told the same thing to any councilor or city official who would listen. Apparently they listened, but didn’t hear.

This is what we ALWAYS get when our civic “leaders” choose to listen to outside influences who tell them what they WANT to hear, instead of hometown experts who tell them what they NEED to hear.

$90,000 a year to fail – I could have used that gig! Thanks for reaffirming what I already knew.


Basic Reasons:

Location: surrounded by big-time venues – Joe Louis Arena, Cobo Hall, Fox Theatre, Comerica Park, Palace of Auburn Hills, DTE (formerly Pine Knob). These are some of the biggest halls and sheds in North America. They didn’t get that way by letting every little rinky-dink arena within 50 miles eat their lunch. Windsor is in that restricted area.

Artists: How do they keep their prices up? By not performing at every little rinky-dink arena within 50 miles of their meal tickets (see above).

It’s a simple business principle – competition.

14) Ah, fun with numbers. The city memo is obviously lacking in detail and as
such is difficult to base any firm conclusions on however, I am struck by
the labour amounts. The memo indicates that the cost (wages + benefits) of
retaining 20 of the 60 workers who are guaranteed employment is $1,336,608.
If that is the case then wouldn't the current labour costs of the 60 workers
be three times that amount, not the reduced amount indicated? Also,
presumably these 20 people would bump other lower seniority positions and
there would be some additional cost savings.

I agree with your comments about the equipment and while past practices do
not give me alot of comfort, the City could/should stipulate in its tender
that the successful bidder will have to purchase the equipment or
alternatively, will agree to lease the equipment from the City for a
specific period of time.

The argument does highlight one archaic union principal, that being
guaranteed employment. As you well know, that is unheard of in the "real"
world. The requirement that the City must retain/retrain these people and
place them into other positions is absurd in the "real" world and quite
frankly no company, either public or private should be forced to operate
under such stringent labour practices. At the end of the day, the City, the
public and the low seniority union members suffer at the expense of 20
employees. There is growing unrest within the union shops and the younger
generation seems to be getting the short straw in most of the instances.