Looming uncertainty around Ottawa’s problem-plagued payroll system is causing federal employees to curb their charitable contributions; a trend that threatens to create a multi-million dollar shortfall for one of the city’s largest fundraisers.
United Way Ottawa president and CEO Michael Allen says his organization plans to help more than 60,000 people this year. Thirty-five per cent of the money needed to make that happen, he says, comes from the government’s workplace charitable campaign.
With about a month to go, the latest numbers suggest the federal government will not hit its target.
“We are sitting at about $16 million against a $19 million goal,” Allen told CTV Ottawa. “This year has been an extraordinary year with about 30 per cent decline in the number of donors.”
That amounts to about 8,000 employees who chose not to contribute this year. One-third of those would-be donors have relied on automatic payroll deductions to transfer donated funds.
Months of payroll headaches stemming from the malfunctioning Phoenix pay system have caused scores of government workers to tighten their purse strings until a solution is in place.
More than 82,000 employees have complained of being underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all since the system was introduced last year.
Ottawa is scrambling to whittle away at a massive backlog of errors ahead of tax season, but federal officials have warned there will be no quick fixes.
Samantha Russell is one of the federal workers who thought twice about a payroll deduction this year for fear the Phoenix system would get it wrong.
“Unfortunately, it comes second to paying your mortgage and feeding your children, it really was a tough choice,” she said.
Russell said she plans to give a cash donation to a charity of her choice.
“As much as public servants want to help, I’m sure they don’t want to push a button and their pay stops,” she said.
With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Megan Shaw