The federal government has announced its intention to shift recipients of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to the federal employment insurance (EI) program, beginning in September.
“We intend to cover every Canadian who is looking for work with a better, 21st-century EI system.”
– Justin Trudeau
The CERB, launched in April, is a taxable benefit that provides $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program has so far deployed approximately $62 billion of its $80 billion budget and processed over 21 million applications. The last CERB payment period is expected to end on September 26.
At a press briefing held Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will also create a “transitional, parallel benefit” that is similar to EI for contract works, gig economy workers, and those who don’t qualify for the CERB.
Trudeau noted the additional benefit would provide works access to training as well as the ability to work more hours and earn more money while receiving the benefit. There will also be a sickness and caregivers benefit for individuals who contract COVID-19.
“We intend to cover every Canadian who is looking for work with a better, 21st-century EI system. That is our goal,” Trudeau said, noting the government would not raise EI premiums during this time.
In mid-June, the government announced the CERB would be extended to the end of the summer. Trudeau said that the idea behind extending the CERB was to support Canadians unable to find work even as the economy began to re-open.
Canada’s Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said in a subsequent press briefing Friday that the federal government will be “moving as many Canadians as possible” from the CERB to EI in September. Qualtrough said Canada’s EI system was “ready” for the change, adding there will be no disruption of current EI benefits.
During his Friday press briefing, Trudeau also announced the official launch of the federal government’s COVID-19 “exposure notification app,” which was developed in partnership with Shopify and BlackBerry. The prime minister also announced an extension of the government’s COVID-19 commercial rent relief program through August.
More information on changes to the government’s current EI program and phasing out of CERB is expected to be released before the end of August.
News of the government’s CERB plans follows shortly after major changes to the 75 percent wage subsidy program passed in the House and Senate. Changes to that program include an extension of support until the end of the year, as well as updated eligibility criteria and how funding is determined based on revenue declines.
Photo by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr.