Without hesitation, City Council unanimously endorsed the Prince Rupert Unemployed Centre Society’s request that the City write a letter of support for the society’s Bingo Licence renewal with the B.C. Gaming Branch.
The society is presently funded by the B.C. Law Foundation, the Prince Rupert Labour Council and gaming.
According to Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who told council she does the society’s books free of charge, the society presently receives around $30,000 in gaming funds, which represents half of the society’s entire budget.
Two representatives from the society, its coordinator Terry Intermela and board member Barry Cunningham, appeared before council Tuesday evening.
Sharing a chart they showed in 2010 the society had handled almost 600 cases, ranging from helping people apply for pensions, E.I and prepare Income Tax returns, to grappling with consumer debt. In addition, the society also fielded almost 200 enquiries in that same time frame.
Cunningham told council since the society’s inception as a registered charity in 1988, it has helped over 30,000 individuals in the North Coast region without charging them any fees.
“It is the last functioning centre of its type,” Cunningham said. “We’ve drafted briefs on Social Service matters and have presented some 215 appeals in the spectrum of anti-poverty laws, of which 170 were successful.”
Intermela indicated on a day-to-day basis people come into the centre, which is located in the Fishermen’s Hall on Fraser Street, seeking assistance in filling out forms.
“On cases that become a little bit more involved, perhaps where decisions are made that clients aren’t all that happy with, we then draft appeal arguments to present to panels, given whatever issues we’re dealing with. In a sense we’re providing some more detailed legal assistance to our clients,” Intermela explained.
The society often presents appeals on behalf of clients to various appeal boards such as Workmen’s Compensation or E.I. cases.
“Various agencies have different appeal mechanisms. WCB has tribunals, unemployment insurance has a tribunal going forth, and disability pension has a different tribunal. What we do is develop an argument for our clients at an appeal level and present it for them with them,” Intermela explained.
And in many cases, the society’s appeal record has been successful.
“All the cases we’ve dealt with, we’re quite proud of,” Intermela added.
Councillor Kathy Bedard congratulated the society on its efforts and said the group does an extraordinary job of helping people in the community as a true