Pattie Lovett-Reid: Confusion mounts as CERB ends
As the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) came to an end over the weekend, confusion is mounting around benefit entitlements.
I've received several messages about what comes next now that CERB is no longer available.
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, approximately 4 million Canadians will be transferred off CERB and of that 2.1 million of those recipients will be eligible for the revamped EI program.
The temporary changes to EI will allow 400,000 more people to be eligible for the program than in past. Regular EI benefits as we know it apply to those who have lost their jobs and are actively looking for work, while special EI benefits are for those who have been unable to work due to special life circumstances – sickness, maternity, parental and compassionate care or family caregivers.
These are unusual times and clearly many families required ongoing financial assistance.
In order to qualify for the modified EI you need 120 insurable hours which equates to 3.5 weeks of work in the last 52 weeks. You can apply and receive a taxable benefit 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 of Claim rules.
For those who qualify, there will be an automatic transfer from CERB to EI. But be aware that is where the automation ends. One off the biggest differences between the two programs is that individuals will have to self-report on their employment status and apply every two weeks to ensure ongoing coverage.
For the CERB claimants who don't qualify for the modified EI benefits program there are three new benefits, which are still awaiting legislative approval, to be explored:
1. Canada Recovery Benefit. This is designed for those who are self-employed or those who are not eligible for EI and still require income support. Through this benefit, individuals who have yet to return to work, have seen their income drop by 50 per cent and are willing to accept work where they reasonably can, could receive $500 for 26 weeks.
2. Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. A benefit that pays $500 for two weeks for workers who are sick or who must self-isolate due to COVID-19
3. Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit. This benefit is for those who need to care for child under the age of 12 because of closed schools and daycares. Those eligible could receive $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household.
There is no question these are challenging times and as we transition from CERB to an enhanced EI program patience and persistence will be likely be required.