End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

Andrew Cummings
September 28, 2020

The same floor would be placed on employment insurance benefits for those eligible for the program, matching a demand from the federal New Democrats to not cut the value of benefits.

The $500-a-week floor on benefits in EI, or $300 per week floor for new parents using the extended-leave option, will be taxable. "However, for most people now, the benefits are the same, if not better". Anyone who does qualify for Employment Insurance will be transferred to it when CERB expires at the end of this month.

Federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough has told Canadians that the government intends to transition CERB recipients to "more nimble and flexible" programs to help them get back to work.

EI payments are also taxed at the source, so they may be different than what they were under the emergency benefit.

The threshold to qualify for EI has been reduced to 120 hours of insurable work for those coming back into the system that has been almost dormant since March. Employment Insurance comes with rules requiring people receiving benefits to make reasonable efforts to find work and not to refuse offers to return to the job.

The legislation gives a breakdown of those measures and spending limits, but "doesn't cover every single thing that we may need to do in the fall", Freeland said.

"Now that we've got this thing and it's going to last for six months, that provides me with a little bit of relief, because now at least I know for those six months, but I'm sick and exhausted of everything being done at the last minute".

Bill C-2 also contains a Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit - which is $500 per for up to two weeks for workers who are sick or who must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19. Since the introduction of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in the early days of the pandemic, at a time when we asked Canadians to stay home, close to 9 million Canadians have received the Benefit to help to pay their bills and support their families.

The Workers Action Centre in Toronto had to pull down its online fact sheet Thursday night and was frantically poring over the legislation to provide answers on Friday, said executive director Deena Ladd.

"Canadians have shown tremendous strength in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and we know that it is still here with us".

They did not get the unanimous consent needed to pass the motion.

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people, or roughly two in every five members of the almost 20.2 million-strong labour force in August.

"We have convinced the government to work with us and we've massively expanded the number of people who can access the sick days", George Soule, a spokesman for Singh, said Friday."This is an important first step toward getting sick days permanently for all workers across the country", he said.

"We're coming up to the end of one program without these new programs even being programs yet".

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