TORONTO — After providing millions of Canadians with financial relief since the beginning of the pandemic, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be coming to an end on Saturday and recipients will be forced to transition to a recently updated Employment Insurance (EI) program or apply for three other temporary benefits.
Under the federal government’s $37-billion CERB transition plan, millions of Canadians who are currently collecting CERB will be moved onto a more flexible and accessible EI program. If they don’t qualify for EI, but they still can’t work due to the pandemic, they may be eligible for three new temporary benefits.
The changes to the EI program and the three new recovery benefits will be available to Canadians for one year.
Here’s what to know about the available benefits and the transition process.
EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE (EI)
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) estimates that approximately four million Canadians will be transferred off CERB and that 2.1 million of those recipients will be eligible for the revamped EI program.
According to the federal government, the temporary changes to EI will allow 400,000 more people to be eligible for the program than would have been in the past.
Under the changes, eligible Canadians may be able to collect EI through regular benefits or special benefits.
EI regular benefits apply to individuals who involuntarily lost their jobs and are actively looking for work while EI special benefits are for those who have been unable to work due to specific life circumstances, including sickness, maternity, parental benefits, as well as compassionate care or family caregivers.
In both cases, Canadians with 120 insurable hours—which equates to 3.5 weeks of work in the last 52 weeks—across Canada can apply and receive a taxable benefit at a rate of at least $500 per week, or $300 per week for extended parental benefits, for up to 26 weeks.
To encourage Canadians to work, EI claimants will be able to receive part of their benefits and all of their earnings from work under the Working While on Claim rules.
TRANSITIONING TO THE EI PROGRAM
Canadians who are currently collecting CERB through Service Canada and are eligible for EI will be automatically transferred over to the new program.
However, those who have been receiving CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will have to apply for EI, which is administered through Service Canada.
One of the biggest differences between CERB and EI will be that claimants will be required to self-report on their employment status and apply every two weeks in order to keep receiving support.
NEW TEMPORARY BENEFITS
For CERB claimants who don’t qualify for the new EI benefits, which the CCPA estimates could be as many as two million people, they may be eligible to apply for three new temporary benefits.
On Thursday, the Liberals tabled Bill C-2 to implement the new recovery benefits intended to address the reasons why Canadians are unable to work during the pandemic and help those who don’t qualify for EI.
The three new benefits are called the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.
The bill is expected to be debated in the House of Commons on Monday.
Canadians will be able to apply for the three new benefits through the CRA for one year up until Sept. 25, 2021.
CANADA RECOVERY BENEFIT (CRB)
The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) is designed for workers who are self-employed or who are not eligible for EI but still require support. Valued at $500 for 26 weeks, the benefit is only provided to workers who haven’t returned to work due to COVID-19 or who have seen their income drop by at least 50 per cent.
Those who apply for the CRB must be looking for work, and accept work “where it is reasonable to do so,” according to government criteria.
CANADA RECOVERY SICKNESS BENEFIT (CRSB)
The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) is a new initiative that provides $500 per week for up to two weeks for workers who are sick or who must self-isolate due to COVID-19.
Details on the benefit, including who is and is not eligible, remain slim, but the government describes the measure as a way to “ensure all Canadian workers have access to paid sick leave.”
CANADA RECOVERY CAREGIVING BENEFIT (CRCB)
Those who are unable to work because they need to care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools and daycares are closed are entitled to the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB), a benefit of up to $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household.
The benefit is also available for those caring for a child or family member who is sick and/or required to quarantine.
With files from Rachel Aiello
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