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About 4.7 million Canadians were benefitting from the estimated $80.6 billion dished out by the federal government under the Canadian Emergency Response Benefits (CERB) over the past six months to assist workers who have been sent to the breadline because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
However as of September 26, when the program came to an end, the lifeline of as many as two million have been threatened as they stand to lose the $500 per week that came with the payout.
In keeping with the government’s pledge “to be there for Canadians” as the coronavirus rages on, Employment minister Carla Qualtrough recently unveiled a $37-billion transition plan that would make Employment Insurance (EI) more accessible to those who are still out of work.
However with an estimated three million CERB recipients potentially unable to make that seamless transition to the usually difficult qualification criteria of EI, the government was forced to implement changes to expand the program.
As of September 26, they decreased the number of hours needed to qualify for the program to 120 by offering a 300-hour credit to regular applicants who lost their jobs and a 400-hour credit to those applying to maternity and other special benefits. As well, they implemented a minimum benefit rate of $400 per week for 26 weeks.
Before the announced changes to the EI program more than three quarter of CERB recipients would have fall through the crack.
The maximum weekly benefit under the current EI system is $573.
For those still not able to access EI the government implemented an additional three new pandemic relief benefit programs: the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit which together target the self employed, those who are stricken with the virus or being forced into quarantine or households in which a student is forced to stay at home and need care because of COVID-19.
As defined on the government of Canada’s website:
• The Canada Recovery Benefit will provide income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19 and are not entitled to EI benefits. It will pay $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) for a 2-week period and allows individuals to reapply if their situation remains unchanged for up to (26 weeks) between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021. To apply go to https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/benefits/recovery-benefit/crb-how-apply.html
• The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit will provide $500 per week (recipients get $450 after taxes deducted at source) for up to a maximum of two weeks, for workers who are unable to work for at least half of the week because they contracted COVID-19, self-isolating for reasons related to COVID-19, or have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19. This benefit will be paid in one-week periods. If conditions continue beyond one week, workers can re-apply for up to 26 weeks. To apply go to: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/benefits/recovery-sickness-benefit/crsb-how-apply.html
• The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit will provide $500 per week (recipients get $450 after taxes deducted at source) for up to 26 weeks per household for those who are unable to work because they care for a child under 12 or another dependent whose school, daycare or other day program facility is shut down due to COVID-19. To apply go to: https/www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/benefits/recovery-caregiving-benefit/crcb-contact.html