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

A police officer speaks to a driver during last year’s Shift Into Winter event in Quesnel. The annual road check reminds drivers to slow down and be safe during winter. (Karen Powell Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
It’s time to Shift into Winter

The annual campaign offers winter driving tips

Jeff Malin nears the finish line Sunday, Oct. 11 in downtown Quesnel. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
No travel, no problem: Jeff Malin completes ninth marathon in Quesnel

The Quesnel firefighter has been running marathons since 2012

The owners of Motherlode Wash on Juniper Road in South Quesnel are hoping to construct a new wash building that would accommodate larger vehicles like RVs and semi-trucks. The new building would be two storeys and would match the existing buildings on the property. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
South Quesnel’s Motherlode Wash applies to add wash building for large vehicles

The new building will include three large-vehicle wash bays and one touchless wash tunnel

Sherry Jasper and Juerg Feldmann show off their third-place trophies from an outdoor Quesnel Pickleball Club tournament earlier this year. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel pickleball going back in the jar

The indoor season will kick off with strict COVID-19 prevention guidelines

Portrait of Dr. William Allen Jones - screen print with gold ink - (c) Bill Horne. (Photo Submitted)
Wells artist prints portrait of B.C.’s first dentist

Bill Horne hand-silk screened the portrait with 11 colours in an edition of just 54 as a fundraiser

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

Jordan Naterer, 25, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. He planned a hike in the Manning Park area, and has not been seen since. Photo Facebook.
Family devastated as search for missing Manning Park hiker suspended

‘It was an extremely difficult meeting with the parents when we had to tell them.’

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, Cullen apologize for NDP candidate’s comments about Haida candidate

Nathan Cullen had made insensitive comments about Roy Jones Jr. Cheexial

Six Mile Beach outside Nelson is known for its perfect sand, clear water and unique sand spit. But the drowning death of a man in July has residents asking if the dangerous spot has become too popular. Photo: David Grantham/Kootenay Drone Services
Dangerous oasis: The fatal history of a popular Kootenay Lake beach

Six Mile Beach near Nelson is known for its unique sand spit. But locals have feared it for decades

In this photo illustration, a provincial election mail-in ballot sealed in an Elections B.C. return envelope is seen before being deposited in a Canada Post mailbox, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The final result of British Columbia’s provincial election won’t be known for at least two weeks because more than 700-thousand mail-in ballots have to be counted by hand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s snap election means 700k ballots will be counted manually, delaying results

Elections BC spokesman said employees in 87 electoral districts will count mail-in ballots one by one

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam takes part during a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. As parts of Canada face a new round of COVID-19-related restrictions, Canada’s chief public health officer is urging Canadians to continue making a “collective effort” to tackle the pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Chief public health officer calls for continued ‘collective effort’ against COVID-19

Canada continues to climb toward the 200,000 mark for COVID-19 cases

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. Facebook photo.
‘Please pray for our son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Searchers continue efforts to find 25-year-old Vancouver man in Manning Park

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Most Read