One third of jobless Canadians won't benefit from EI or CERB

More than 860,000 people will fall through the cracks without extra help

One third of jobless Canadians won't benefit from EI or CERB
Steve Randall

Government policy needs to be modified to ensure that everyone is supported during the COVID-19 crisis according to a new report.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that as many as 862,000 unemployed workers could be ineligible for either employment insurance (EI) payments or help under the new Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

“A full one third of unemployed workers will fall through the cracks and receive no income support, unless changes are made quickly to ensure no one is left behind during this crisis,” says David Macdonald, CCPA senior economist and author of the new analysis.

The analysis finds that 1.2 million Canadians were already unemployed before the coronavirus outbreak with another 1.5 million joining them since.

With 604,000 of those who do not qualify for EI having lost their jobs before the outbreak, they are also ineligible for CERB.

“If you were unemployed before COVID-19 hit, you get nothing from CERB, even though the prospects of finding work right now are virtually non-existent,” adds Macdonald. “Canada’s unemployed workers are sacrificing their pay in order to stop the spread of the virus. We need to recognize that and give them the support they need to survive on the economic front lines.”

For the 14% who will get something from EI, they will be worse off than those on CERB who will receive $500 a week.

Earnings too low
The analysis also calculates that 47,000 of those who are eligible for CERB will not apply as they are unaware of it, while 175,000 workers did not make at least $5,000 in 2019 and are therefore not eligible for CERB despite being laid off due to the virus.

CCPA is calling for all unemployed people to receive CERB even if they lost their job before the COVID-19 outbreak, eliminating the $5,000 annual earnings requirement for eligibility; and topping up all present EI recipients to the CERB flat rate of $500 weekly if their present EI benefits fall below that level.