Federal government’s CERB replacement measures pass in the House

As the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) comes to an end this week, the federal government has passed a new bill that would replace the program with three new streams of federal COVID-19 benefits for Canadians ineligible for employment insurance (EI).

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough estimated the new measures in Bill C-4 will cost $34 billion.

Under Bill C-4, which passed in the House of Commons Wednesday, most Canadians who were collecting CERB will automatically transition to EI, and those who do not transition will have access to three new federal support programs. The bill has yet to pass in the Senate, which was expected to pass the legislation today, but delayed its next sitting to Friday.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough estimated the new measures in the bill will cost $34 billion, $3 billion less than the government’s initial estimate in August.

Passed by the government in March, the CERB program provided a taxable benefit that would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lost their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, the program has deployed $79.3 billion to nearly nine million Canadians.

The government first revealed plans to end the CERB in July. Trudeau said at the time that the government was looking to create a “transitional, parallel benefit” that is similar to EI for contract works, gig economy workers.

The three new streams for those ineligible for EI that are expected to replace the CERB include:

1. The Canada Recovery Benefit: $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for self-employed or gig workers who don’t qualify for EI.

2. The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: $500 per week for up to two weeks for workers who are sick or must self-isolate due to COVID-19.

3. The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit: $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for people who cannot work because they need to care for a child or dependent for reasons related to COVID-19.

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The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) ends when Canadians have received 28 weeks of benefits or on October 3, whichever comes first.

Once the CERB ends, most Canadians that were approved for the program will be automatically transitioned to EI. They will receive a taxable benefit of at least $500 a week, or $300 a week for extended parental benefits. EI claimants are eligible for at least 26 weeks. People switching to EI from CERB will be eligible for their first payment as of October 11.

Some people who are eligible for the new EI program, will not be automatically transitioned and will need to apply. This includes Canadians that have 900-series social insurance numbers, this can include temporary foreign workers and international students, as well as self-employed workers who received benefits through Service Canada. There are other reasons that require Canadians who were on the CERB and may be eligible to still apply for EI.

Those who are ineligible for EI will be able to apply for the three newly-passed programs.

According to the government, approximately 80 percent of eligible Canadians using direct deposit can expect their first payment by October 14 about three days after they become eligible.

The passing of Bill C-4 comes a week after the federal government made new commitments to pandemic-related support programs in its throne speech.

Included in those commitments was extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to summer 2021, which was most recently extended through to November 21. The Liberals also pledged to expand the $40,000 small business Canada Emergency Business Account loan program and improve the Business Credit Availability Program.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast