Key COVID-19 benefit to be extended eight weeks with work-related requirements

Key COVID-19 benefit to be extended eight weeks with work-related requirements

OTTAWA — The federal government will provide eight extra weeks of benefits for people whose jobs or earnings have vanished because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but only if they look for work and take jobs when it’s reasonable to do so.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will continue to pay out $500 a week, but now for up to 24 weeks instead of 16 for people who lost their jobs or saw their hours slashed due to the pandemic.

The first cohort of applicants who signed up in April are set to max out their payment periods in early July, with worries some won’t have jobs to go back to and others unable to work because their health is precarious.

“Even as our economy is reopening, there are many, many more people out of work (or) willing to work than there are jobs available and that will be the story for the coming weeks as well,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in announcing the extension.

He added that the government will look at international best practices to determine what further changes will be needed.

The CERB has paid out $43.51 billion to 8.41 million people as of June 4, a take-up that forced an increase in its budget to $60 billion from $35 billion just a few weeks ago.

At its height, the CERB paid out $17 billion a month when eight million people were on it, but numbers have declined as 1.2 million recipients returned to work or went back on payrolls with help from the federal wage-subsidy program.

The heavy spending from the federal government, along with unprecedented measures from Canada’s central bank, have helped stabilize the economy and should support a recovery, Canada’s new top central banker told the Commons finance committee later in the day.

“We can’t change the fact that the pandemic has resulted in a very severe recession, the most severe in our lifetimes. The best we can do is do everything we can so the bounce-back” takes off, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem said.

“What we really want to avoid is a non-recovery. That will create huge problems and that’s why these measures are so important.”

Going forward, the wording of the declaration recipients must make to get CERB payments will include language that applicants are actively looking for work and will take a job offer when their circumstances permit it, similar to the requirements for employment insurance benefits.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said workers with child- or elder-care responsibilities, or those with COVID-19 symptoms, may be unable to work and could keep their CERB access.

“We can’t impose an obligation on somebody to take a job,” Qualtrough said, “but we are encouraging and saying that through the attestation, that people actively seek work and take it when it is reasonable in their circumstances to do so.”

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, warned the language may yet be problematic because job prospects are minimal.

“We are living in a pandemic and we need to take that with some serious understanding that this is going to impact anybody’s ability to be actively looking for work,” he said in an interview.

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, wrote on Twitter that it was “too soon to end CERB,” but said changes to help workers keep a portion of CERB payments even if they earn more than the $1,000-a-month income cut-off may ease rehiring problems employers say they face.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, speaking in St-Georges in his province’s Beauce region, suggested he would speak with Trudeau about a formula to allow people to collect some CERB while returning to work.

“We understand that those people who have lost their jobs want help from the government,” he said in French, “but we have to find a way where there’s still an incentive to relaunch the economy and that the most people possible return to the job as soon as possible.”

An extension will add to the cost of the benefit, but Trudeau didn’t provide an estimate Tuesday.

The parliamentary budget officer in a report last week estimated that extending the maximum number of weeks of eligibility from 16 to 28, and extending the program through to January 2021, would cost about $57.9 billion.

Extending the CERB has been a demand from the New Democrats in exchange for the party’s support for the minority Liberals in an upcoming confidence vote. Wednesday is to see a House of Commons debate on supplementary spending estimates that detail roughly $81 billion in already approved spending and about $6 billion more in measures requiring approval.

Budget officer Yves Giroux noted in a morning report that a number of measures promised by the government aren’t included in the tally, leaving an incomplete picture of how much the government will spend on COVID-19 aid.

Left out of the estimates are cost details on the $45-billion wage subsidy program because it’s delivered through the tax system, and a loan program to small- and medium-sized businesses that will open applications to a wider number of companies on Friday.

Giroux warned it will be difficult to get answers about the estimates from federal officials because MPs will only debate the estimates for four hours under a deal agreed to last month by a majority of MPs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2020.

— With files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maskwacis reporting 37 active cases

Numbers current as of Oct. 19

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

(The Canadian Press)
Alberta-raised Cree actor lands role in Disney’s live-action ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’

Tiger Lily is featured in Disney’s 1953 animated “Peter Pan” film

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

Pipeline division owned by Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. will now be required to restore 3,840 hectares of caribou habitat,

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Alberta Premier Jason Kenny and government house leader Jason Nixon chat before the speech from the throne delivered in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Alberta politicians are to return to the legislature Tuesday with a plan to discuss up to 20 new bills — many of which are focused on the province’s economic recovery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta legislature to resume Tuesday; focus to be on economic recovery

Opposition house leader Heather Sweet said the NDP will focus on holding Premier Jason Kenney

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read