To tide people who are unemployed over until new income support measures are in place, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is being extended for another four weeks.
Ottawa (20 Aug. 2020) — The temporary changes to Employment Insurance (EI) that the federal government announced this week will provide much needed help to people who are out of work. However, because these changes will only be in place for a year, they don’t address the serious gaps in EI coverage. These gaps mean that when the permanent EI rules are in place, many people who are unemployed won’t qualify for EI.
Temporary changes take effect on September 27
The temporary changes to EI take effect on September 27, 2020. At the same time, three new programs will be introduced to assist people who don’t qualify for EI; people having to care for family members, and people who don’t have paid sick leave.
To tide people who are unemployed over until the new income support measures are in place, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is being extended for another four weeks.
EI eligibility and benefits expanded for one year
For the next year people will only need 120 insurable hours to qualify for EI. Without this temporary measure, people need between 420 hours and 700 insurable hours, depending on the unemployment rate in the region in which they live.
There will be a minimum benefit of $400 per week. Without this minimum benefit, benefits are 55% of earnings, which can be very low for some.
People will get a minimum of 26 weeks of benefit. Without this temporary measure, people could receive as little as 14 weeks of benefits.
New programs only in place for one year
The three new programs are the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit. All three programs are temporary and will only be in place for one year.
Parliament still has to pass legislation to authorize these programs. They are supposed to start on September 27, 2020, but it is not expected that people will be able to apply for these programs until October 2020. Details of the programs, including when people can apply, will be posted at www.canada.ca/coronavirus.
For people who earned at least $5,000 in 2019 or 2020, but don’t qualify for EI, the Canada Recovery Benefit will pay $400 per week, for up to 26 weeks. The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit will provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave for people who can’t work because they are sick, or must self-isolate, and who don’t have paid sick leave.
The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit will provide $500 per week, for up to 26 weeks for one person in a household, who has to look after a child or other dependent whose school, child care centre, or day program is closed.
Permanent fix for problems with EI program still needed
While the temporary measures that the federal government has taken to expand access to EI are important, a permanent fix is still needed. A combination of years of cuts by successive federal governments, and the growth of precarious work, means a growing number of unemployed Canadians cannot get help from employment insurance. That needs to be changed.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE