Since the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government of Canada has rolled out a string of emergency benefits, aiming to buffer some financial impacts on Canadians who have taken the hardest hit. While some programs have drawn to a close, such as CERB, others are extended to fend off the malaise of unemployment and a pending recession. The 2021 federal budget holds for COVID-19 income support in the following areas. 

Income support programs in replacement of CERB 

The federal budget has extended the replacement program initiated last year. The Canada Recovery Benefit has been extended by three months, tallying fifty weeks by September this year. However, payments are slated to spiral down. In the first four weeks, recipients will receive the usual $500 per week before tax. For the remaining eight weeks, the amount will be cut to $300. Likewise, both rent and wage subsidies have been extended to September with similar payment reduction plans. 

As for the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, the federal budget has added four more weeks, extending it to a total of forty-two weeks, whereas the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit will remain at the current length. 

Employment Insurance (EI)

In addition to the aforementioned supporting programs, sickness benefits under EI will be extended from 15 to 26 weeks. Interviewed by the Toronto Star, David Macdonald, senior economist with the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, opines that the extension is likely to bring positive impacts on working Canadians in the long run. “You can get EI if you lose your job, but you can also get EI if you get sick. So if you’re struggling with cancer or something like that, you can now receive EI for longer.” Mr. Macdonald opined. 

The 2021 federal budget also makes changes to EI entrance requirements. In the past, workers usually would need between 420 and 700 hours of work to qualify for entrance. However, to ease the transition from CERB to EI, the federal government announced that workers would only need to meet the 420 hours threshold requirement. The change will remain valid for the next three years. 

While some believe that reduction in hours requirement is a “major change”, as proclaimed Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, others remain skeptical. According to Mr. Macdonald, the hours requirement does not address the need of gig workers, among other concerns, and raises more social questions than answers. 

Indeed, we can never know for certain how these subsidies and support programs will impinge or improve Canada in the long run. But for every hard working Canadian worker out there, we encourage you to get all the help you need when they are still at your disposal. If you are befuddled by how to apply, or unsure how such programs apply to you, give us a call any time.