The federal government announced Thursday it’s extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit another four weeks as it prepares to transition to an expanded Employment Insurance program with new sick benefits.
Newly appointed Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland revealed the CERB transition plan alongside Minister of Employment Carla Qualtrough in Ottawa. The 12-month plan is estimated to cost about $37 billion, depending on how many people access it.
CERB was initially brought in to bolster Canada’s unemployment benefits scheme as thousands of Canadians lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. The $500-per-week CERB payments will now continue for a maximum of 28 weeks.
As CERB ends, the government is relaxing the rules around who qualifies for EI, which it estimates will make another 400,000 people eligible. It’s also introducing three new benefits:
Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)
This will provide $400 per week for workers who are self-employed or are not eligible for EI. People receiving this benefit must be available and looking for work. It lasts for a maximum of 26 weeks.
Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)
This benefit pays workers $500 per week if they are sick or need to self-isolate. It’s available for a maximum of two weeks at at a time.
Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)
People who are caring for children, dependents, or the elderly qualify for this benefit. It pays $500 per week for a maximum of 26 weeks per household.
To be eligible for the CRCB, people must have stopped working to care for children under 12 because coronavirus-related school or daycare closures, to care for a family member with a disability whose day program has closed because of the coronavirus, or to care for a family member who cannot access their usual day programs because they’re at high risk for coronavirus complications.
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Qualtrough mentioned at a press conference that she hopes these new benefits mitigate the economic setbacks disproportionately faced by women during the pandemic.
“Women have been both frontline and sidelined by the pandemic,” she said.
Qualtrough added it’s too early to tell whether these new EI benefits will become permanent, saying that depends how quickly the economy recovers.
In addition, the government committed to freezing EI premium rates for the next two years, so businesses and their employees won’t face immediate added costs from EI payroll deductions.
“We are helping businesses and workers get back on their feet, while making sure Canadians have the income supports they need. Together, we will get through this, and build a stronger Canada,” Freeland said in a news release.