The federal government has announced plans to add extra weeks of income support for unemployed workers and parents at home with children because of the pandemic.
The government plans to add 12 weeks of eligibility to the Canada Recovery Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, raising the maximum number of weeks available to 38 from 26.
CRB and CRCB provide eligible workers with $900 after taxes per two weeks.
The duration of the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) will also be extended to four weeks from two weeks. CRSB pays $450 after taxes per week for workers who are unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they contracted COVID-19, self-isolated for reasons related to COVID-19.
The number of weeks of EI regular benefits available will also be extended to a maximum of 50 weeks for claims that are made between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.
To ensure employees in the federally regulated private sector can access the proposed additional weeks of CRCB and CRSB without the risk of losing their jobs, the maximum length of the leave related to COVID-19 under the Canada Labour Code would also be extended.
The government says subject to royal assent self-employed workers who have opted in to the EI program to access special benefits would be able to use a 2020 earnings threshold of $5,000, compared to the previous threshold of $7,555. This change would be retroactive to claims established as of January 3, 2021 and would apply until September 25, 2021.
Canada’s labour market reversed months of gains in December and January, as lockdowns sent employment rates back to where they were in August, leaving the country short 858,300 jobs of pre-pandemic levels.
The government’s most recent figures show it has provided over $11.6 billion through the three recovery benefits launched in the fall to replace the Canada Emergency Recovery Benefit.
A further $13.5 billion has been spent on regular EI benefits, with about two million people currently receiving the income support. That doesn’t include special benefits like parental leave.
The government estimates the cost to extend the benefits at $6.7 billion, and a further $5.4 billion for EI.
“This crisis isn’t over. Neither is our support for everyone,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference announcing the change.
Extending the recovery benefits can happen through regulation, which is simpler than the law that needs to be passed to extend EI eligibility.
And once changes are made, provincial governments would have to update worker protection rules to accommodate the extra weeks of sickness and caregiving leave.
— With Files From The Canadian Press