Feds announce $37 billion for CERB transition

by Stephen Dafoe

The Government of Canada announced $37 billion in spending to transition affected workers receiving the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to Employment Insurance (EI), and new income support benefits the Liberals say will better support all Canadians. 

Among Thursday’s announcements is a four-week extension of CERB to a maximum of 28 weeks. 

Canadians receiving EI will be eligible for a taxable benefit rate of at least $400 per week, or $240 per week for extended parental benefits. Regular benefits will be accessible for a minimum duration of 26 weeks. Eligibility is 120 hours of work, which is lower than the current EI requirements. 

The Liberals are also proposing the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), which would provide $400 per week for up to 26 weeks, to self-employed workers or those not eligible for EI, but who require income support and are available and looking for work. 

Additional proposals include the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) that would provide $500 per week for up to two weeks for sick workers or those who have to self-isolate for COVID-19-related reasons. 

The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) would provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household, for eligible Canadians. Eligibility includes those due to Covid-19 who are unable to work because they must care for children under 12 due to school or daycare closures, and caring for a disabled or dependent family member. It also includes those caring for those not attending school, daycare, or other care facilities under the advice of a medical professional due to being at high-risk if they contract COVID-19.

“Canadians have shown tremendous strength in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in a media release Thursday. “As we begin to safely reopen our economies and businesses, our government is committed to supporting Canadians. We are helping businesses and workers get back on their feet, while making sure Canadians have the income supports they need. Together, we will get through this, and build a stronger Canada.” 

The Conservative Party of Canada took issue with Thursday’s announcement. In a joint statement by Conservative MPs, Dan Albas and Pierre Poilievre, the MPS said it is clear Justin Trudeau has no plan to help Canadians get back to work or to restart our economy. 

“Shuffling Canadians between programs is not a plan,” Abas and Poilievre said. “It is unacceptable that the Trudeau government announced these changes days after locking out MPs and shutting down Parliament, to block investigations into their WE Scandal. Canadians have serious questions about this transition and how it will affect them. They deserve transparency and clear answers.”

The Conservatives counter with a CERB top-up to ensure workers have needed support to transition back into the workforce and help local businesses fill shifts and get back on their feet. 

“Millions of Canadians are still unemployed and eager to return to work. Businesses want to reopen and welcome back staff and customers. But instead of fixing their programs and outlining a plan to restart our economy, the Trudeau Liberals continue to let Canadians down,” the statement reads. 

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