Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough rises during a sitting of the House of Commons, Wednesday, April 29, 2020 in Ottawa. Expecting mothers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 in March, and have since been unable to access emergency federal aid, will receive a key benefit for workers once a fix comes into effect on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough rises during a sitting of the House of Commons, Wednesday, April 29, 2020 in Ottawa. Expecting mothers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 in March, and have since been unable to access emergency federal aid, will receive a key benefit for workers once a fix comes into effect on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Fix on Friday to finally let moms-to-be receive CERB, Qualtrough tells MPs

Moms who received less than $500 per week in EI benefits will receive a retroactive top up

Expecting mothers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 in March, and have since been unable to access emergency federal aid, will become eligible Friday for a key benefit — without jeopardizing their parental leave.

The government is implementing a fix on May 8 so that pregnant women can finally receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said Tuesday.

The issue stems from a flaw in which women who identified as pregnant on their employment insurance applications in March weren’t automatically moved over to the pandemic benefit when it launched about one month ago.

Instead, some women entitled to CERB benefits were put on EI instead, which could have impacted their parental leave time, while others simply didn’t receive financial help at all.

Qualtrough told MPs in an email that expectant mothers who haven’t received the CERB will begin to receive backdated payments in the days following the fix.

Those who received less than $500 per week in EI benefits will receive a retroactive top up, and anyone who earned more won’t have payments clawed back.

READ MORE: 7.3M Canadians have received CERB, as wage subsidy pays salaries for another 1.7M: feds

She also promised that affected mothers-to-be who received EI won’t have those weeks docked from their maternity and parental leave entitlements, meaning they won’t have to return to work months before their infant is a year old.

“The biggest thing for me is that my maternity time isn’t cut off,” said Erin Smith, 34, who is expecting her first child in July.

Maternity and parental benefits are the only part of the EI system still operating during the pandemic. Everyone else in need of aid is receiving the 16-week CERB.

Since it became available on April 6 and through to the start of this week, 7.49 million people have received the $2,000-a-month benefit that goes to anyone who either lost a job, earns under $1,000, or whose job prospects have been affected due to COVID-19.

Figures posted Tuesday show the government has paid out $27.72 billion in taxable benefits through the program that has a budget of $35 billion.

When the issue of pregnant women not being paid first reached federal officials, they realized a technological fix wasn’t that easy. The guts of the EI system is 46 years old and isn’t easily changed.

For women like Smith, federal officials planned to put them on EI as an interim measure while their files were moved over to the CERB, and then eventually moved automatically to maternity benefits.

Smith was laid off in mid-March as public health restrictions forced non-essential businesses to close.

The resident of Salt Spring Island, B.C., spent hours on hold trying to get through to Service Canada to resolve her case. After three weeks, she finally got through and started receiving EI on April 20.

“I’m never not grateful for what even EI is giving me,” she said, noting she had help from friends and family in between.

“It’s just when you plan these things you’re wanting that precious time with your little one and to have that kind of in jeopardy on top of everything else … it’s been a different situation than I thought I would be going into.”

READ MORE: Keep ‘pandemic bubbles’ small, top doctor urges as B.C. prepares to loosen rules

Conservative employment critic Dan Albas said he heard many of the same concerns from women — and raised them to Qualtrough directly — who on Tuesday were breathing a sigh of relief the situation is being resolved.

“It’s hard enough to have a child during a pandemic. It’s even more difficult when you don’t have supports,” he said. “The most important thing here is there is a fix coming.”

Still being worked out is how to ensure pregnant women who have lost jobs due to the pandemic can earn enough hours to qualify for EI when their child is born. A committee of MPs was told last week that officials are trying to make sure a change to help affected women qualify doesn’t risk other beneficiaries in the system.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

It was a quiet week for COVID-19 cases in the West Kootenay. Illustration: B.C. Centre for Disease Control
Two new cases of COVID-19 in Nelson area

The cases were confirmed for the week of Jan. 10 to 16

The Nelson and District Community Complex ice has mostly been empty this season with the Nelson Leafs’ season on hold due to the pandemic. File photo
Six Nelson sports groups included in provincial grant

The Local Sports Relief Fund is meant to offset pandemic-related expenses

The Nelson library’s podcast club is like a book club, but for podcasts. Photo: Submitted
CHECK THIS OUT: Happiness at the library

Columnist Avi Silberstein invites you to the library’s podcast club

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
Midway Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Most Read