Major Changes to CERB – How will this impact you?

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The back of the Parliament Building in Ottawa taken before sunset. The Peace Tower is in the background and the Library is in the foreground.
The back of the Parliament Building in Ottawa taken before sunset. The Peace Tower is in the background and the Library is in the foreground.

THUNDER BAY – The Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit, or CERB has been extended for a month as the Government of Canada makes major changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) program to support workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Canadians have shown tremendous strength in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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,” states Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have had a negative impact on a worker’s weekly earnings, either because they lost their job or saw their hours of work reduced. To give Canadians seeking employment the support they need to get back on their feet, the government is making changes to the EI program. EI will now be available to more Canadians, including those who would not have qualified for EI in the past, adding more than 400,000 people into the program. Those receiving EI will be eligible for a taxable benefit rate of at least $400 per week, or $240 per week for extended parental benefits, and regular benefits will be accessible for a minimum duration of 26 weeks. The government will continue to work with provinces and territories to ensure Canadians receiving EI benefits have access to skills training and employment supports, to help them get back to work.

The government will also freeze the EI insurance premium rates for two years, so Canadian workers and businesses will not face immediate increases to costs and payroll deductions due to the additional expenses resulting from the pandemic.

Quick facts: How Will This Impact You

  • On April 6, the CERB was launched to help Canadians who had to stop working for reasons related to COVID-19, or who were eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits.
  • On June 15, the CERB was extended by eight weeks, providing up to 24 weeks of benefits for those who still could not go back to work safely.
  • As of early August, 8.5 million individuals have benefitted from the CERB, and more than 4 million individuals have transitioned off the CERB and returned to work.
  • Effective August 9, the government has established a minimum unemployment rate for the EI program of 13.1 percent across Canada.
  • The program will allow Canadians with 120 hours of insurable work or more to meet these new requirements by providing a temporary, one-time credit of 300 insurable hours for those claiming EI regular and work-sharing benefits. Canadians claiming EI special benefits – including maternity, parental, sickness, compassionate care, and family caregiver – they will be provided with a temporary, one-time credit of 480 insurable hours.
  • The CRB, CRSB, and CRCB will be in effect for one year, following the end of CERB payments. Canadians will be able to apply for these benefits through the Canada Revenue Agency. More details on how Canadians can get ready to apply will be available in the coming weeks at www.canada.ca/coronavirus.
  • Canadians should note that CERB payments are made in advance for pay periods, while EI and the new benefits are paid in arrears. More details will be communicated to Canadians shortly.
  • The government is also implementing temporary measures to support self-employed fish harvesters who rely on EI fishing benefits in the off-season. These measures will allow EI fishing benefits for these workers to be calculated using either their fishing earnings for their current claim, or their fishing earnings from their claim for the same season from the previous year, whichever is higher.
  • As the Province of Quebec delivers maternity, paternity, parental, and adoption benefits through the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan, Quebec residents are not eligible for the measures relating to maternity and parental benefits.
  • Quebec residents would be eligible for the new measures relating to EI regular, fishing, sickness, family caregiver, or compassionate care benefits. They would also be eligible for the three new recovery benefits.
Unifor National President Jerry Dias Addressing Rally at Thunder Bay City Hall
Unifor National President Jerry Dias

“It is important that the transition from the CERB be seamless and painless for workers who have not regained employment,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Today’s changes address many of the problems we’ve helped identify for the federal government.”

Unifor says, “Changes to the program include a one-time reduction in qualifying hours that will improve access and a new benefits floor has been established at $400/week. For those workers expected to be excluded from EI following the expiry of CERB, a new recovery benefit has been created. A complete list of changes is summarized on the government’s website.”

“Today’s changes are a relief for many workers in the short term, but EI has been so badly broken for so long that a full overhaul of the system is still absolutely critical,” said Dias. “These temporary changes, critical now, have to guide more comprehensive improvements to EI that will benefit workers for generations to come.”