CERB ends for millions of Canadians, to be replaced by new EI program

WatchThe Canadian Emergency Response Benefit came to an end today. For more than two million Canadians it means they'll now have to transition to a new program to get financial relief during the pandemic.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is coming to an end on Monday as Canada prepares for the second wave of COVID-19.

In its place will be a new employment insurance program, which the government says will be the main financial aid, plus a new suite of benefits that won’t exist unless approved by the politicians.

Last week, the Liberals sided with the NDP and amended the new aid program, ensuring that unemployed Canadians will receive $500 a week in benefits – the same as they’ve been receiving under the CERB – rather than the originally proposed $400.

There are currently well over two million Canadians currently collecting the CERB, however, not everyone will be able to transition to the new employment insurance option.

In order to be eligible for the new E.I. program, Canadians must report at least 120 hours of work in the past 52 weeks or since their last claim.

Citizens who have been getting served through Service Canada, however, should be transferred to the new E.I. system seamlessly, according to the government.

The government says the first payment will come the week of Oct. 11. About 80 per cent are expected to receive payments by Oct. 14; a further 10 per cent within the first two weeks.

Jobless benefits through this EI program will be available for at least 26 weeks, and claimants will be allowed to earn more than they did under the CERB, up to $38,000 annually, before being completely cut off.

Employers will also be allowed to use “supplemental unemployment benefits” to top up EI payments.

While those who applied for a received the CERB through service Canada will be automatically transitioned, anyone who applied and received the CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency would need to apply anew for EI, if they qualify.

Others who will have to apply to Service Canada are those with temporary 900-series social insurance numbers and self-employed workers who receive benefits through Service Canada.

The government is also adding three new temporary benefits:

  • The Canada Recovery Benefit: $500 per week for up to 26 weeks to self-employed workers or those not eligible for E.I. but still need income support.
  • Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: $500 per week for up to two weeks, for those who cannot work because they are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit: $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household to eligible workers who cannot work because they must care for children or family members due to the closure of schools, daycares or care facilities.

These benefits will only affect those who don’t currently qualify for E.I.

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 nearly 20.2 million-strong labour force in August.

For Tina Starkey filling time has become a chore. She is one of the Canadians on the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, and staying home is her only option right now.

“It’s very difficult, I am grateful for the financial support,” said Starkey.

“But it only supports me for my basic needs, my rent, my car, insurance, house insurance and things, other than that I need to really need to hold on to my money.”

She’s been laid off from the airport in food services since March. It’s still unknown if and when her union job will ever come back and getting a new job has been challenging.

She and others are worried about what this means for the future.

“In really scared I haven’t got enough information on it, I am not sure if I am going to be getting paid the same, and if not I will be in real trouble,” she said.

Victoria’s Chamber of Commerce says a large portion in the city still rely on the assistance.

“We are still north of 10 per cent of the unemployment rate, so that is not healthy, so we need to address that as quickly as we can,” said Chamber CEO Bruce Williams.

They say continuing the wage supplementing and enhancing people’s skills are the keys going forward.

“Those displaced by this are those who are the lowest wage earners in the economy who are only capable of earning a wage that suits their skill set,” said Williams.

“So if we can find a way in collaborating in with government and post-secondary, to train people to get people into jobs we even needed before COVID.”

For now Starkey, continues to look for work or see if she lands on her feet at the airport again.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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