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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Woman who assaulted downtown Nelson business owner sentenced

Nicole Brown was found guilty of assaulting Linda Randall during an attempted shoplift in 2017

RDCK reduces number of properties under evacuation alert from Talbott Creek Fire to 46

Improved visibility has allowed helicopters to resume water suppression efforts on fire

Art as reconciliation: Ymir artist hosting BC Culture Days event

Damian John will lead a workshop titled Exploring Reconciliation Through Creativity

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

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

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Most Read