On August 12, employment Minister, Carla Qualtrough, promised a seamless transition from CERB to EI by the end of August. The last period of eligibility for CERB ends on September 26. As the current eligibility requirements for EI stand, many recipients of CERB could be left without economic support. The Federal Government has announced that they will be tweaking the EI program so that no one falls through the cracks.
The first step taken relates to the unemployment rate. EI eligibility criteria typically varies based on the unemployment rate in the area. The lower the unemployment rate in an area, the harder it is for people in that area to qualify for EI. The government has set the minimum unemployment rate across the country at 13.1%. This rate will apply everywhere the rate would otherwise be lower. For employees where this minimum rate applies, they will only need 420 hours of eligible employment in the last year to qualify for EI, and they will receive a minimum of 26 weeks of EI benefits.
Some are concerned that many Canadians will not qualify for EI or receive significantly less on EI than they would on CERB. Common examples of concerns are:
- CERB was available for parents who had to reduce hours or give up their positions due to a lack of childcare. EI is not typically available for this.
- People were allowed to work a limited amount and still receive CERB. Typically, workers cannot work at all while receiving EI.
- CERB was available for self-employed and “gig” workers. EI is typically not available for these types of workers.
- CERB was available for people who earned $5,000 in the past year. Some of those people may not have worked enough hours to qualify for EI.
- CERB provided $500 per week. EI typically provides a maximum of $573 per week but, depending on several factors, many individuals would be receiving far less from EI than they have been from CERB.
The Federal Government has stated that more information on the changes in EI eligibility will be forthcoming. Hopefully, that information will address some of these potential gaps.