The Government of Canada is planning to extend the number of weeks benefits are available for numerous government programs.
The intent is to extend the time Canadians can benefit from the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits.
The federal government says some workers could begin to exhaust their benefits in late March, and this increase would ensure continued support as Canada’s economy and labour force recover.
“It would also provide additional access to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, so that Canadians do not have to make the choice between going to work sick and putting food on the table,” reads a release from Employment and Social Development Canada.
The Ministry says each benefit will be extended by a different amount of time.
The CRB and the CRCB would be extended by 12 weeks, extending the current maximum duration from 26 weeks to 38 weeks.
The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) would be extended from the current two weeks to four weeks.
For EI benefits, the plan is to add 24 weeks to a maximum of 50 weeks through legislation, for claims that are made between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.
The maximum length of the leave related to COVID-19 under the Canada Labour Code would also be extended to ensure employees in the federally regulated private sector can access the proposed additional weeks of CRCB and CRSB without the risk of losing their jobs.
While this would be a federal change, provincial and territorial governments would have to determine whether they need to amend their job-protected leaves in order to facilitate employees’ access to the proposed additional weeks of CRSB and CRCB benefits.
Self-employed workers who have opted in to the EI program to access special benefits would be able to use a 2020 earnings threshold of $5,000, compared to the previous threshold of $7,555. This change would be retroactive to claims established as of January 3, 2021 and would apply until September 25, 2021.
The government’s most recent figures show it has provided over $11.6 billion through the three recovery benefits launched in the fall to replace the Canada Emergency Recovery Benefit.
A further $13.5 billion has been spent on regular EI benefits, with about two million people currently receiving income support. That doesn’t include special benefits like parental leave.
The government estimates the cost to extend the benefits at $6.7 billion, and a further $5.4 billion for EI.
“This crisis isn’t over. Neither is our support for everyone,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference announcing the change.
The proposed changes need to be approved and are subject to the regulatory and legislative amendments receiving Royal Assent.