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The mystery of the GNWT’s evacuee travel fund ‘financial assistance’ checkbox

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If you applied for the GNWT’s evacuee travel funding, a checkbox at the end of the form may have caught your attention.

The form is the one you fill out to claim the $750 for driving south out of the territory during an evacuation, or to claim $400 for driving from your community to another NWT community.

Formatted like one of those “I have read the terms and conditions” pieces of fine print, and requiring you to check the box to submit your claim, the box initially asked you to declare you had not received “any other financial support” except whatever you were about to ask for.

That statement confused some people. What counts as any other financial support?

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“The wording is all-encompassing,” tax consultant Andy Wong wrote, expressing uncertainty about what it asked of him.

Wong said the GNWT’s wording would surely include any other territorial programs currently offering help to evacuees, any Indigenous government funding, and even $50 given to you “by a kind stranger.”

“Am I interpreting the form correctly?” asked Wong, a leading authority on interpreting forms correctly.

We went to the NWT government for clarification but, before we heard back, the wording next to the checkbox changed.

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How the GNWT’s checkbox looked on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the new wording asked people to agree with the statement: “I confirm that I evacuated from my community by vehicle; and have not received any other financial support intended to offset evacuation travel expenses from my employer, insurance company or any other source.”

If the evolving nature of the box and its wording confused you (never mind the world’s least necessary semi-colon) and you’re unsure if you did the right thing or just inadvertently illegally claimed something, you are nowhere near alone.

We’ve had lots of messages, particularly from people who filled out the form before the box wording changed and now feel like the new wording invalidates the answer they sent earlier.

Here is the territorial government’s full response to us. See if any of this helps.

Cabin Radio: What did the GNWT consider to be “any other financial support” in the initial wording?

Todd Sasaki, Department of Finance (by email): The lack of clarity around the declaration about “financial supports” was brought to our attention this morning. We have updated all forms so this declaration now reads:

“I confirm that I evacuated from my community by vehicle; and have not received any other financial support intended to offset evacuation travel expenses from my employer, insurance company or any other source.”

Our intention is to ensure supports are available for residents who need them the most. By taking other levels of support available to residents, such as personal insurance or support from their employers, we hope that we can apply our limited available resources to residents most in need.

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Now the checkbox has changed to say if you have insurance you can’t claim the $750, what does that means for people who now feel in limbo, having submitted a claim before the box said that?

Todd Sasaki: Guidance for residents who have already applied:

  • If you meet the criteria in the new declaration (you have not received financial support intended to offset evacuation travel), you do not need to resubmit an application.
  • If you do not meet the criteria, or are uncertain, reach out to ETSP@gov.nt.ca. Please include the registration number you were given when you submitted your application in your email.
  • If you did not submit an application because you were unclear about the declaration, we encourage you to re-assess based on this additional information.

Meanwhile, we also asked the GNWT about the security of the form, since it asks for just about every piece of information someone might want to steal your identity.

“The GNWT takes the security and protection of all information and online systems seriously. The GNWT has appropriate protocols to ensure that the we can quickly develop online forms that protect the information and privacy of individuals,” Department of Finance spokesperson Todd Sasaki wrote.

“We are aware of rumours online that GNWT websites – particularly the new funding application portal – have been compromised. The GNWT system or the application portal have not been compromised. We monitor our online systems for suspicious behaviour and would shut down these systems if any suspicious activity is identified.

“We ask all residents not to spread unverified rumours concerning GNWT websites. Spreading unverified rumours may discourage others who need financial support from applying.”

But if the questions on the online form still feel too intrusive to you, try the downloadable PDF form instead.

For reasons that are not clear, the PDF does not ask for some things (like your social insurance number) that the online form requires.

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