NDP: Why is government ignoring financial hardship program applicant?

September 3, 2014

(Halifax, NS) NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald wants to know why the Liberal government has not responded to the appeal of a man whose health is in jeopardy.

On August 26, 2014 the Chronicle Herald reported the story of John Jessome, a 52-year old former HRM employee who applied for a portion of his public service pension under the financial hardship program. Jessome, who suffered a heart attack in April of 2013, has not been able to afford prescribed heart and blood pressure medications. He currently works as a cleaner at the Stanfield International Airport. Twice in the last year the Superintendent of Pensions has denied Mr. Jessome early access to a portion of his pension funds based on his income.

“My back is against the wall,” said Jessome. “I need to pay my bills and I need to be able to pay for my medication. For me this is a matter of survival and it’s frustrating I can’t get access to my own money.”

Jessome says he was not contacted by the Superintendent of Pensions or the government after his story was published last Tuesday.

In the Chronicle Herald story Minister Regan, who at the time was responsible for the file, said regulatory changes were coming to the financial hardship program to address “limitations.” She also said the program was moving to the Department of Finance on September 1, 2014. 

MacDonald says while changes to the financial hardship program are badly needed, people like John Jessome still need help in the interim.

“It’s unfair for the Liberal government to expect John, and others like him, to wait while the Department of Finance conducts another review,” said MacDonald. “Someone who is struggling to afford needed medication, who is also trying to pay the bills and support a child, does not have the luxury of time. I hope the government will ensure these individuals don’t fall through the cracks while regulatory changes are being considered.”

MacDonald says she wrote to Minister Kelly Regan on July 18 about Mr. Jessome and asked that the decision be reviewed and reversed. Minister Regan did not reply to the request.  She is hopeful the new Minister responsible, Diana Whalen, will be more responsive.