May 8, 2020
With some seeing more income than before, does the CERB need tweaking?
We are establishing the plumbing for the infrastructure for social assistance of the future: CIBC's Tal
Two-thousand dollars a month may not seem like much to some struggling Canadians, but to some part-time minimum wage workers, that amount is like hitting the jackpot.
With the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in place, some part-time workers who were laid off from their jobs are now seeing a bigger paycheque than before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“In my case, I’m receiving more money now with CERB than before when I was working,” Eric Cheung a part-time retail worker at a clothing store, told BNN Bloomberg in an email.
The 25-year-old is also a fashion arts student at Seneca College in the Toronto area who, like many other students, is receiving CERB. He said he’s grateful for the aid, which is putting him at ease about school payments and other financial expenses.
“As a student fortunate enough to live at home with my parents, receiving CERB is not necessarily critical to my financial well-being, but it allows me to pay off ongoing credit card expenses and it will provide much needed help when student loans are due in the future,” he said.
Cheung added that with the CERB payments, he might finally ditch his seven-year-old laptop, upgrade his home internet service and store the rest in a savings account.
With some seeing more income than they may need to get by, does the program need to be fined-tuned to ensure the aid is being appropriately distributed?
CIBC’s Deputy Chief Economist Benjamin Tal thinks that even with some people receiving more money than before, CERB achieved what it intended to, and is better than the alternative of doing nothing. The quick response by the government has resulted in a framework for a more durable system, according to Tal.
“The $2,000 dollar-per-month program probably will be modified, but it will maybe be the foundation of a minimum income guarantee system that people have been talking about for a long period of time,” Tal told BNN Bloomberg in a phone interview.
He added it’s important to ensure the level of abuse of the system is as low as possible.
In the emailed statement to BNN Bloomberg, the Department of Employment and Social Development said files are reviewed regularly to ensure the program is not being taken advantage of and that Service Canada uses computer tracking and linked data systems to detect fraudulent activity.
With millions of people across Canada collecting CERB, there are still many part-time employees, like Mississauga, Ont. resident Linden Lirette, who are not eligible for government relief because they are still working.
Despite not qualifying for the program Lirette, a replenishment clerk at The Real Canadian Superstore, thinks CERB is fair as long as people use it appropriately.
Since the demand for grocery items has spiked during the pandemic, the 21-year-old said he benefited in his own way when his hours increased, along with his wage. He told BNN Bloomberg he’s grateful to be able to continue working, and provide an essential service.
“It’s nice to still get out of the house five days a week and to keep somewhat of a routine. I’m someone who thoroughly enjoys going to work, so having the chance to keep working right now is something that I’ve been appreciative of and been happy about,” Lirette said in an email.
As for Cheung, who can’t keep busy with work, he’s spending his free time brushing up his resume for when he can return to the workforce.
“Many of those people [not working] hopefully within a few months will have their job back, so the inclination to remain on this program will go down, especially when it’s very clear that this program is temporary and will be replaced by something that is not as generous, but still essential,” Tal said.
“Hopefully within a few months we’ll be in a position to fine-tune programs [like the CERB] – but now, you just have to stop the bleeding.”