TRU launches app to help people navigate COVID-19 government assistance - InfoNews

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TRU launches app to help people navigate COVID-19 government assistance

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
April 23, 2020 - 2:30 PM

Law students, faculty and staff at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops have created user-friendly apps that help connect applicants with COVID-19 government assistance programs.

The group of apps, called COVAID, simplify information, answer questions and direct users to the appropriate government assistance programs, according to a TRU media release.

The initiative was sparked by a TRU law student whose family member was laid off due to COVID-19.

The student created a spreadsheet of government programs, which Katie Sykes, associate professor in the Faculty of Law, saw on social media. As Sykes teaches an app making class, she took the next step and created the digital resource.

TRU Law associate professor Katie Sykes is pictured in this undated, submitted photo.
TRU Law associate professor Katie Sykes is pictured in this undated, submitted photo.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / TRU

A team of 15 students and alumni collaborated with the legal technology company Neota Logic and Brian Lamb from TRU Learning Technology assisted with logistics.

Specific topics have been clearly broken down within the apps, such as eligibility for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and mortgage deferral.

“I want people to know about it,” Sykes said in the release, adding an estimated three percent of people who are eligible for emergency response benefit won’t apply because they don’t think they’ll qualify.

Sarah Ewart, left, and Dave Barroqueiro were part of a TRU Law team that developed a series of apps to help people access COVID assistance programs.
Sarah Ewart, left, and Dave Barroqueiro were part of a TRU Law team that developed a series of apps to help people access COVID assistance programs.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / TRU

Working on the project gave TRU Law student Sarah Ewart a sense of purpose in a challenging time.

“I felt motivated. It was something to put time and energy into that had a purpose to it,” she said in the release. "It helped me to concentrate more on my other school stuff. It was something positive to do in this really negative scary time.”

Ewart said there are plans to translate COVAID into other languages and add more detailed topics, such as the rental assistance program and employment insurance.

“We’re going to take on as much as we can, and we’re not going to stop just because school ends,” she said. “I’m going to continue working on it as long as people need help.”

Ewart’s partner, TRU law alumnus Dave Barroqueiro, had worked on legal apps during his studies. He joined the team along with another TRU graduate Cameron Johnson.

“This is a difficult and confusing time for so many people,” Barroqueiro said in the release. "I had the benefit of experience in legal expert systems, both during my time at TRU law and afterwards, so when I became aware of the project, I didn’t hesitate to jump in to lend a hand."

Go here for more information about the app.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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