Sep 25, 2020

CERB is Ending – What Happens Next?

On Sunday, the Canadian Emergency Recovery Benefit (CERB) ends for about 750,000 Torontonians. The big question is – what happens next? 

About 2 million people currently receiving CERB will be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). For those that are not eligible for EI, the federal government has introduced Bill C-2 that, if passed, would introduce three new financial benefits. 

While the new proposed programs will go a long way to helping ease the transition away from CERB, an estimated 482,000 Canadians who had previously received CERB will still not be eligible for these supports. 

While there is a good likelihood that Bill C-2 will pass, there will be hundreds of thousands of Canadians wondering if or when they will receive any financial benefits come Monday. 

CERB played an essential role in helping keep people safe during the pandemic and preventing surges in food bank use beyond what we have experienced to date. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, it is critical that people have reliable, adequate financial benefits to prevent growing poverty and an even bigger health crisis.  

What supports will be available through EI? 

Some important changes have been made to EI to make it better meet people’s financial needs, including reducing the number of employment hours needed to qualify and increasing the minimum weekly payment to $500.  

There are a number of important differences between CERB and EI: 

  1. Unlike CERB, in order to receive EI, applicants will have to provide a Record of Employment. 
  1. EI recipients will have to self-report every two weeks to continue getting the benefit. 
  1. It is likely that there will be a longer time lag between filing an application and receiving funds under EI than CERB. 
  1. EI payments are taxed at the source – meaning that while people will not end up owing taxes on these payments down the line as they might with CERB, they will have less cash immediately available to meet emergency needs.  

Whether people need to apply for EI depends on where they applied for CERB, either Service Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency. For those receiving CERB through Service Canada, the transition to EI should be automatic. Those receiving CERB through CRA will have to apply for EI through Service Canada–it is estimated that over 750,000 eligible CERB recipients will not be automatically transferred onto EI. 

What happens to people who do not qualify for EI? 

The government has proposed three new benefits that would come into effect if Bill C-2 is passed.  

Like CERB, these benefits do not require a Record of Employment from an employer and funds will be transferred faster than EI benefits.

  • Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB): $500 per week to cover gig, freelance, and contract workers who do not qualify for EI.  
  • Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit: $500 per week for those caring for dependants and therefore cannot work. 
  • Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: $500 per week for those who are self-isolating due to symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 or for those recovering from COVID-19. 

Who falls through the cracks? 

While the changes to EI and proposed new programs will help ease the transition when CERB ends, an estimated 482,000 CERB recipients will not be eligible for EI or the new proposed benefits.  

People in precarious employment may lose out on benefits during this transition. For those whose work was disrupted by COVID-19 and have since returned to low-wage and low-hours work may not qualify under EI or the CRB. 

Workers who aren’t documented, including those who aren’t legally recognized to work in Canada, as well as anyone who cannot rely on an employer to submit a Record of Employment, will also be unable to access these supports. 

Income security is the best tool to prevent food insecurity. It is critical that all people in Canada have access to financial supports to get through this crisis with dignity. With CERB ending on Sunday, we call on all federal parties to work as quickly as possible to roll out replacement income supports.  

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