COVID-19 Benefits Contact Centre Contract

Call Centre Services Directorate
Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch

Government institution

Canada Revenue Agency

Government official responsible for the PPA

Frank Vermaeten
Assistant Commissioner
Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch

Head of the government institution or Delegate for section 10 of the Privacy Act

Steven Morgan
Director General
Access to Information and Privacy Directorate

Name of program or activity of the government institution

Benefits

Standard or institution specific class of record:

Taxpayer Services - Enquiries
CRA ABSB 141

Standard or institution specific personal information bank:

N/A

Summary of the project, initiative or change

Overview of the Program or Activity

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) contributes to the economic and social well-being of Canadians by providing benefit programs and other tax-related services. A significant part of the service delivery model relies on enquiries call centres for citizen interactions. In 2018-19, the Agency answered over 20 million telephone calls (12.7 million answered by agents, 8.3 million answered by automated services) through the various 1 800 networks on all lines of business.

The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted many Canadian businesses and individuals. In response to this, the government created new COVID-19 Relief Benefit programs that have generated unanticipated call demand to CRA’s call centres.

At the initial onset of the pandemic, the CRA was only providing essential services; therefore, the Agency solicited the assistance of those Agency employees not able to do their regular duties to fill in as temporary call centre agents. Of these volunteers, many of them were able to assist on our regular Individual Tax Enquiries (ITE) and Business Enquiries platform lines. However, the Agency also launched a second call centre platform to provide self-serve and agent support for general enquiries regarding the new COVID-19 Relief Benefit measures which were staffed by these volunteers.

Once the CRA resumed most of its normal business operations, the majority of the volunteers returned to their incumbent roles. This left a significant gap in call centre agent capacity to handle the anticipated high call demand for the additional announced COVID-19 Relief Benefit programs resulting in a need for an increased agent pool to meet taxpayer expectations of timely service.

PART I - Alternatives to the Collection, Use or Disclosure of Personal Information

Before collecting, using or disclosing any personal information for a non-administrative purpose, the Canada Revenue Agency, hereinafter referred to as “CRA”, commits to the following undertakings:

1. Defining objectives, exploring alternatives and assessing benefits vs. privacy risks

1.1 CRA will define the objectives of the non-administrative program or activity and determine whether these can be achieved with alternative sources of data, such as depersonalized or aggregate data that do not identify and cannot be used to identify an individual.

State the objectives:

To provide the CRA with short-term call centre services to respond to general telephone enquiries related to CRA administered COVID-19 Relief Benefit programs.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the Government has introduced new benefits programs that have been administered by the CRA. These programs have resulted in a significant increase in call volumes and there is no sign that this demand will diminish anytime soon. As we enter tax filing season, we will see another increase in call demand, well-beyond the “normal” peak season volume.

Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch (ABSB) call centres have been aggressively hiring additional call agents since the pandemic began and have continued to hire in preparation for T1 filing season. We have hired approximately 2,000 new call agents and had a total of 5,100 by February 2021 (compared to 3,600 at last year’s T1 filing season). With such a significant growth in such a short period of time, ABSB’s call centres have reached maximum capacity.

Today, general enquiries related to the suite of Canada Recovery Benefits are directed to a separate phone line and are answered by our volunteers. However, with business resumption, our staffing levels on this line is reaching a critical level. We had considered re-directing these calls to our ITE phone lines, however demand on this line continues to be very high and wait times can be long. To maintain priority for the benefit phone enquiries, temporary assistance from a third party service provider was considered the better option.

Therefore, ABSB sought short-term call centre services to address these general, non-protected phone enquiries; as such, the contractor will not be connected, or have access to any CRA IT system. The period of this short-term contract is from February 1, 2021 to August 31, 2021 and was awarded to Maximus Canada Services Inc.

If the objectives cannot be achieved without the use of personal data, provide the reasons:

N/A

1.2  The benefits of this program or activity have been considered against the invasion of privacy that may occur before deciding whether to proceed. The outcome of this consideration and decision to proceed are explained as follows:

N/A

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