The prime minister promises improvements to the employment insurance system
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vows “no one will be left behind” once the federal government transitions unemployed Canadians off the pandemic emergency response benefit and into the Employment Insurance (EI) program.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was created for millions of employed and self-employed Canadians whose livelihood had been crippled by the COVID-19 crisis. The program gives beneficiaries financial assistance of about $500 a week.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, the CERB worked as a safety net for incoming EI applicants who could not immediately be admitted into the insurance program.
Read more: $500 a week COVID 19 benefit to be extended eight weeks
But with the federal government now shifting its attention from emergency response to economic recovery, beneficiaries who are still receiving the CERB will soon be enrolled into EI.
“To people who need this program, don’t worry, no one will be left behind,” Trudeau said.
“Our goal is to transition everyone on the CERB to employment insurance because EI should cover every Canadian who’s looking for work.”
The federal government will provide more details in the weeks ahead, but the prime minister guaranteed a “better 21st-century EI system” would be established and that there would be no increase in EI premiums “during this challenging time”.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said the CERB has “served its purpose”.
“The reason it was created is no longer the main focus of our efforts as a government,” she said, emphasizing the need for support systems that “contribute to people returning to work and to the workplace”.
Trudeau also extended protection to gig and contract workers who don’t qualify for EI. They will receive a “transitional parallel benefit” similar to employment insurance.
The alternative system will give them access to training as well as opportunities to work additional hours while they receive government support, the prime minister said.
Read more: Most jobless Canadians refuse to work because of CERB: study
“That’s only appropriate as our economy reopens and brings back more jobs,” he said.
The federal government also plans to give workers a sickness/caregiver’s benefit in case they (or their child or parent) contract COVID-19 and are required to take time off.