Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, July 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Feds extend CERB for four more weeks, announce changes to EI system

New benefits for recovery and caretakers also announced

The federal government’s $500-a-week COVID-19 benefit program will be extended by four weeks.

Federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough made the announcement at a press conference Thursday (Aug. 20).

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) began in March. This is its second time the benefit has been extended. It is now expected to expire on Sept. 27, when changes to a new “simplified” EI system are scheduled to come into effect.

Qualtrough said she is “absolutely confident” that the new EI system will be able to handle the approximately three million people expected to qualify for the benefit once CERB expires. There are 4.5 million people currently on CERB.

“If there’s anything this pandemic has shown us, it is that our EI system hasn’t kept up with the way work has evolved and we now have a chance to fix that for the better,” Qualtrough said.

Once CERB expires, a new $400-a-week benefit is expected to come into effect for those not eligible for EI, as well as a $500-a-week benefit for caregivers or sick Canadians.

The $400-a-week recovery benefit will allow recipients to make up to $38,000 on top of the recovery benefit, either through traditional work or self-employment. For every dollar earned on top of the $38,000, recipients will have to repay 50 cents up to the total amount of benefit they received. This benefit will last for 26 weeks.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that although the caregiving benefit was for all caregivers, it would be crucial in helping women throughout the economic crisis created by the pandemic. Women have been hit hard by the pandemic, with a University of B.C. study showing pre-existing gender pay gap creating an incentive in many households for fathers to remain in the workforce. The most recent data on the pay gap shows that women earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by men in Canada.

The caregiving benefit would apply to those who must stay home with:

  • a child under age 12 due to the closures of schools or daycares because of COVID-19
  • a family member with a disability or a dependent because their day program or care facility is closed due to COVID-19
  • a child, a family member with a disability, or a dependent who is not attending school, daycare, or other care facilities under the advice of a medical professional due to being at high-risk if they contract COVID-19.

As part of a new proposed one-year simplified EI system, anyone eligible for EI will get at a minimum of $400 each week (to match the recovery benefit) for at least 26 weeks. Recipients need to have worked 120 hours to qualify, below current EI requirements of 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment. This is expected to cover contract, self-employed and “gig” economy workers.

READ MORE: The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

However, the new program can only be approved once Parliament is back in session, after it was prorogued by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau until Sept. 23. Qualtrough said she was not worried about working with opposition on the new benefits system. She said the government chose to announce details Thursday, more than a month before Parliament returns and CERB expires, to give Canadians “certainty” about the weeks and months ahead.

Altogether, the benefits will cost $37 billion; $8 billion to extend CERB (currently at $80 billion), $22 billion for a “relaxed” EI system and $7 billion in additional costs to the EI. The costs are for one year, but are dependent on the course of the pandemic and how the labour market rebounds from historic job losses.

Since mid-March, the CERB has paid almost $69.4 billion in benefits to 8.61 million people, of which 4.1 million have since returned to the labour market.

READ MORE: Liberals plan to use regulations to create income support after CERB winds down

– With files from The Canadian Press


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Invermere gets new CAO

Invermere found his new CAO after a long period of research.

Radium council discusses short term rentals

RHS council are elaborating the second draft plan for STR

Farmers’ Institute report highlights emerging local food scene

Beef cattle ranching remains mainstay of valley agriculture

Beautification process begins in Canal Flats downtown

Canal Flats wants to improve the esthetic of the town

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Most Read