Government expands CERB and boosts wages for essential workers
On April 15, 2020, the federal government announced that it will expand eligibility for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”). Until recently, the benefit has only been available to workers:
- residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
- who have stopped working because of COVID-19 and have not voluntarily quit their job;
- who had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and
- who are or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period (or subsequent benefit periods, they expect to have no employment income).
Recognizing that there are people in-need who are not eligible for the CERB under the existing criteria, the government will change the eligibility rules to:
- allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB;
- extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their usual seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak; and
- extend the CERB to workers who recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.
These changes will be retroactive to March 15, 2020, and more details will be provided soon.
The federal government also announced a wage increase for low-income essential workers. The government plans to work with the provinces and territories to cost-share a salary top up for low-income essential workers via a federal transfer payment. Under this new transfer, the provinces and territories can provide a top up essential workers who earn less than $2,500 per month. Further details will be provided soon.