CERB extended, ‘simplified’ EI system on the way


OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — As the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit is extended another four weeks, the federal government is introducing the benefit’s replacement for millions of Canadians struggling to find work during the pandemic.

The plan is aimed at transitioning Canadians off the $2,000 of monthly support by bringing in sweeping changes and creating new benefits to help the four million workers who need it over the next year. Changes are also coming in to allow workers to keep more of their benefits even while they’re working, eliminating the earnings cliff created under CERB that acted as a disincentive to work.

When the CERB runs out on Sept. 27, three million Canadians will transition into a  “simplified” Employment Insurance program coming into effect the same day. A new benefit that pays $400 a week for up to 26 weeks will replace the CERB for about one million people who don’t qualify for employment insurance.

RELATED: Liberals plan to use regulations to create income support after CERB winds down

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough notes not all regions across the country are reopening at the same time, having an effect on businesses, the availability of work, and on people’s jobs. She says the CERB extension was needed to provide some certainty and continuity.

“For Canadian families who rely on the CERB, this means that they’ll be supported as they figure out what’s happening with school and daycare for their kids in the fall,” Qualtrough says.

There will also be $500-a-week sickness benefit and a caregiving benefit for anyone who has to stay home because they’re ill, or because their school or daycare is closed.

The employment insurance changes can be made through regulatory changes by cabinet without the need for approval by the House of Commons, however, government officials say the creation of the three new benefits will have to be passed in legislation, which means there will be little time to push it through the House of Commons since Parliament was prorogued by the prime minister until Sept. 23.

Qualtrough expects extending CERB, making the changes to EI, and bringing in the new benefits will cost about $37-billion.

EI premiums will be frozen for the next two years.

Since mid-March, the CERB has paid almost $69.4 billion in benefits to more than eight million people, of which about four million have since returned to the labour market.

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