Friday, August 1, 2014

Questions about the $40 a day payment for each student under 13

It is now more than 24 hours since the government announced their idea that parents of kids younger than 13 registered in public schools would eligible for $40 per day for each day the strike continues.    There is nothing on the government website saying how this will work.  

This is serious scale financial program that feels like it has been made up at the spur of the moment.   To make it work something like this work would normally take a lot of planning and testing to make sure everything works well.  Given that is was announced without any details and no way for the public to learn about it seems rather stupid.  Should the government not have made sure everything was working before announcing this?  

What I do know:

  • If you do not register for the money you will not get the money
  • You will be issued a cheque for the money sometime after the strike is over
  • Based on last year's enrollment about 314,000 kids will be eligible - the government number of 300,000 is I have no idea how they came up with that figure.
  • Given that government was about 5% low on eligible students, and this is something they could answer from their own data in minutes, means no one has given any serious thought on how this program will work.  No one is ready to implement this.   On a good day fast action by government takes a long time.
  • There are 21 school days in September
  • For each eligible child that would be $840 for September
  • If everyone claimed the money they could this would be $12,560,000 per day or $263,760,000 for September if the schools are closed for that whole time.  If the government saves $12,000,000 a day from the strike, this program could end up costing more than that per day.

What I do not know:

  • When did the government come up with this idea?   If it really was in the last week, my question becomes does the government have any sort of coherent strategy for the negotiations?
  • When will the registration system be up and online?  I think it has to be fully operational by August 25 at the latest and ideally August 18th.   That is a very short time to have this all in place.
  • In August the provincial government tends to have many key staff on holidays so it is not clear to me how it is going to roll out one of the more complex government rebate programs in less than a few weeks.  Will a bunch of senior staff have to drop everything or interrupt their holidays to get his underway?
  • Who will build this software interface and make sure it works especially when you have thousands of people all at once trying to use it?
  • How much will it cost to create this software and where will you find the competent people to create it?   This is August, this is the month people go on holidays.   I can not see any IT firm being ready to take this on right away.  Anyone the government can get will charge extra to rush the job.
  • How will the government make sure that in a rush like this everyone's privacy is protected?
  • How will the government inform the public about the program?   I assume they will have to do a direct mailing and advertising to get the message out.
  • From where in the provincial government will the money come to pay to create this system?   It has to completely ready and done well before the school year starts which means the government will have to spend 100% of the cost to set up the system even if they settle with the BCTF
  • Since the telling the public about the program and designing the system will happen at the same time, a lot of money will have to spend on promotion before
  • How will people get proof of registration within the school system?   The strike is still on and the schools have minimal staff and will likely not be able to meet any requests for proof of registrations.  Getting something at the school would be most effective but that would involve 
  • What happens if you have just moved to BC?  How do you prove registration?
  • Foster kids - who can claim the money?
  • What happens for couples with joint custody?  What if both of them claim?   
  • What happens if the system is not operating well and it takes you until September to register, can you claim all the way back to the start if it is the fault of the system?
  • How will government be able to check the birth dates of the kids?   
My prediction
  • The online registration system will not work in time and in fact the government will admit in a week or two that it is not going to be how they do it.
  • Government will spend $100,000 to $200,000 on outside IT consultants to find out it can not be done.
  • Government will spend a bunch of money on advertising the program before changing it.
  • Government will spend a bunch of money on a direct mailing before changing the program.
  • Government will change it so that everyone can claim the benefit retroactively and will see the money sometime in early 2015 if the strike ends early in the fall which means the government will likely end up being out of pocket by $560,000 per day of the strike
My guess at a timeline
This program was driven by the political end of government which means the civil service is not ready for it at all.  This means for at least a few days senior civil service staff will have to figure out how to even start
  • August 5th - Senior civil servants meet to figure out who is doing what and broadly how to make this work
  • August 6th-9th - mid level civil servants work out how the program could be made to work.
  • August 11th-13th -  Senior civil servants meet with IT companies and figure out if there is anyone that can take on the contract
  • August 11th - 15th - Civil servants prepare informational website and prepare a household mailer - many will have to come in off of holidays or work many hours of overtime
  • August 14th -15th  Government finds an IT firm to direct award the contract to, maybe.  
  • August 16th - 24th - IT company creates the interface - I know, I am dreaming on that timeline, but lets assume it is possible.  I can not even see how you could test it properly in that short a time.
  • August 19th - Household mailer is mailed
  • August 21st - 22nd - Household mailer arrives
  • August 25th - system goes live but crashes due to too many people trying to register at once
  • August 25th - 29th - Schools are flooded with parents needed proof of registration details.   Remember, since it is summer my child is not currently in school.   The existing registration details are for last year and this changes with the start of the school year.   Here in Victoria a kid in going into grade 6 is going into a new school and as a parent you are unlikely to have ever seen anything from them.   
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