On August 20, federal officials announced that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be extended another four weeks into late September, bringing the maximum payment period to 28 weeks.
The federal government also unveiled the details of how Canadians who are out of work due to the pandemic can expect to access the employment insurance (EI) program come fall. After the end of CERB, on September 27, recipients still out of work will transition to EI. People who would not qualify for EI at that time may then be able to transition to one of three new benefits available under the Canada Recovery Benefit for:
- self-employed workers not eligible for EI;
- those who are ill or self-isolating due to COVID-19; and
- those caring for a child, dependent or family member because schools, daycares or care facilities are closed.
The Canada Recovery Benefits
Legislation is still needed in order to enact these three benefits, and with Parliament prorogued until September 23, their creation hinges on the Liberal government's ability to survive a confidence vote and pass a new bill, which is expected the first week that the MP's return. A web page for the three recovery benefits is expected to come online by mid-September and online applications are to open in October.
For those who are self-employed and not EI-eligible, the benefit provides $400 per week for up to 26 weeks, and applicants will be required to attest on their form that they've lost income and are available and actively looking for work. Workers under the self-employed benefit are still able to earn income but will need to repay $0.50 for every dollar earned above an annual net income of $38,000 at tax time.
The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit will provide workers who are ill or self-isolating due to COVID-19 $500 per week for up to two weeks.
The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit is for workers who must miss work to stay home to care for: a child under the age of 12, a family member, or a dependent. They can access $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household. In order to qualify under this benefit the school or child-care facility must be closed, but if a medical professional recommends a child stay home, the caregiver would be able to access the benefit.
Similarly to CERB, the benefits all require an attestation that applicants meet the qualifications.
Changes to the Employment Insurance Program
Recipients under EI are eligible for a minimum regular benefit of $400 per week for between 26 and 45 weeks, or $240 per week for extended parental benefits. EI eligibility Canada-wide will be effectively set at 120 insurable hours worked in the past year, which is equal to 3.5 hours of full-time work a week. Prior to the change, eligibility was usually determined by the number of insurable hours one had worked based on the unemployment rate in different regions across Canada, ranging from 420 to 700 hours. Benefit amounts equal 55 per cent of one's income, to a maximum of $573 per week, and are taxable. The $400 floor will now mean recipients get between that and the maximum.
On paper, the insurable-hours requirement is set at 420 hours for regular benefits or 600 hours for special benefits based on an unemployment rate of 13.1 per cent for all EI economic regions. However, EI claimants will receive a one-time credit of 300 insurable hours for claims for regular or work-sharing benefits or a credit of 480 insurable hours for claims for special benefits. The credits will be available for one year and will be retroactive to March 15, 2020. Claimants may also earn income and have benefits adjusted through rules that reduce their benefit amount by $0.50 for each dollar of earnings. EI premium rates, meanwhile, will be frozen for two years.
Canadians who applied to CERB through Service Canada will be automatically transitioned to EI regular benefits once the emergency benefit expires. In some instances, they will need to apply for EI benefits through service Canada. Canadians who were EI-eligible prior to the pandemic and received CERB through the Canadian Revenue Agency will need to apply for EI benefits from service Canada. Applicants will have to submit by-weekly reports to show eligibility.
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