OTTAWA – In mid-March, Christine Ilott’s manager broke some bad news to her: she was losing her job in live theatre as a result of the pandemic.
The 47-year-old went home to her basement apartment north of Toronto, walked down the stairs, sat down and took off her shoes. She glanced up the staircase and thought, “I don’t know when I’m leaving here next.”
“And for me, that was absolutely devastating because I love my job. I love working in the theatre. And it just broke my heart.”
As she has searched unsuccessfully for work, and with no sign of theatres reopening in the next few months or longer, she relied on the $500-a-week Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Now, she, like millions of others, will lose the payments as the CERB winds down starting this weekend.
As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people, or roughly two in every five members of the nearly 20.2 million-strong labour force in August.
Benefits were paid upfront, which won’t be the case for Ilott and others in the first wave of those being transferred to the new system: The government says the first payment will come the week of Oct. 11. About 80 percent are expected to receive payments by Oct. 14; a further 10 percent within the first two weeks.
The $500-a-week floor on benefits in EI, or $300 per week floor for new parents using the extended-leave option, will be taxable. Jobless benefits through this EI program will be available for at least 26 weeks, and claimants will be allowed to earn more than they did under the CERB, up to $38,000 annually, before being completely cut off.
Anyone who applied and received the CERB through the CRA would need to apply anew for EI if they qualify. Others who will have to apply to Service Canada are those with temporary 900-series social insurance numbers and self-employed workers who receive benefits through Service Canada.
The Liberals first proposed the new suite of benefits in August, two days after Parliament was prorogued.
The Liberals introduced a bill Thursday in the House of Commons that includes the CERB replacement, called the Canada Recovery Benefit, for everyone who doesn’t qualify for EI.
Putting a floor on benefits equal to that of the CERB is going to mean two million people won’t see their incomes fall, said David Macdonald, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Some might even get more on EI than they did on the CERB.
But that largely depends on a smooth transition and making sure no one falls through the cracks, Macdonald said.
“You need the enabling legislation passed for the million people that are going to end up on these new Canada recovery programs, which has not been passed,” he said.
Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini
News source: The Canadian Press