Canada’s new employment insurance [EI] program

A new COVID-19 package of $ 37billion is introduced to provide undeterred support to Canadians in these conscious times which extends CERB, expand EI and recovery benefits.

Introduction

The Government of Canada has taken a policy transition decision to aid people who are affected the most during these unprecedented times. There has been a shift from Canada Emergency Response Benefit [CERB] to the new Employment Insurance [EI] Program which will support the devastating condition of the Canadians; which was otherwise possible due to CERB but it was a temporary recovery for the people who were retrenched from their jobs; therefore, this new move is to assist the helpless workers. However, to proceed with new program; continuous and undeterred support is being provided; hence, a period of four weeks is inserted to the existing CERB, giving a new maximum of up to 7 months ( 28 weeks) benefits.

Prerequisites

One needs to fulfill criteria in order to avail new EI program benefits which are – time period to qualify is 120 hours, a total $400 per week earned, at least 26 weeks of regular benefits. An assessment takes place to come under preview of new EI program for which the basis is- total number of insurable hours the person has worked before filling the application or since their last claim. In order to take advantage of new EI program, application is decided on regional rate of unemployment, work status in last 52 weeks which means apply as soon as one has lost his job; whereas a delay of more than four weeks would mean an application not entertained.

Moreover, in order to get benefits, one must have lost job with no fault of his own or in lay-offs. An hour credit scheme is also enlightened for those who unfortunately cannot meet the criteria standards of insurable hours in order to avail the benefits. An accumulation of insurable hours is given to address concerns of such people which are fixed at 300 insurable hours claimable for regular benefits (job-loss) and 480 insurable hours claimable for special benefits (sickness, parental/maternal, family caregiver). The hour credit is made retroactively to March 15, 2020 for those who want to apply early for maternal/ paternal, compassionate care, or work-sharing benefits but were not eligible due to insufficient hours. In addition to this, time is also extended for such claimants. However, the hour credit available under new EI is only for 12 months till situation normalizes.

Unemployment Rate

A miniscule unemployment rate of 13.1% has been set in order to minimize the insurable hours so that more people can be accommodated; this measure benefits is valid for 1 year starting from August 9, 2020. The unemployment fluctuates up and down the line which solely depends on factors when claimant files their application which is insurable hours, number of weeks entitled, number of best weeks which again ranges from 420 to 700, 14 to 45, and 14 to 22 respectively. However, a single uniform table is set which will go beyond conventional calculations which is 420 insurable hours, 26 weeks regular benefits, 14 as best weeks. For the hour credit scheme given above, an individual may qualify with 120 hours of work. Similarly, a notable benefits rate is set to remove all the confusions which are $400 or $240 for extended parental benefits which will hit the accounts from September 27, 2020. The EI program is also benefitting the fisherman depending on actual fishing earning from current claim, or from previous claims; whichever is higher. Furthermore, in order to support Canadian businesses and workers, premium is freezed for next 2 years to revive the economy till every person has a strong footing to pay the premium. The standard of freezing the employees’ premium is kept at $1.58 per $100 of insurable earnings and for employers, who pay 1.4 times higher than employees at $2.21 per $100 insurable earnings which are lowest since 1980 as per deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Canada.

New Recovery Benefits

As CERB dissolves, a plethora of benefits has come forward to support in time of no ray of hope which includes;  firstly, Canada Recovery Benefits (CRB) has come under sun for EI benefits;  for which a total of 26 weeks for up to $400 is being added especially for self-employed people or working in gig economy; although, there are some prerequisites to be followed such as claimants should be at least 15 years old, should have valid SIN, have not quit job voluntarily, who are self-employed having income ratio of $5,000 in 2019/2020, are continuously seeking job but can’t find due to COVID-19, also workers need to apply every 2 weeks provided that they meet the requirements. Even though government is supporting the workers or self-employed people, but they have to repay in case their income goes beyond $38,000 when filing their annual income tax in 2020; for increase in income, claimant needs to pay $0.50 to the CRB to every increase by $1.00 in the threshold.

Secondly, being Canada Recovery Sickness Benefits (CRSB) for people who are sick or have self-isolated due to Covid-19, such scheme would provide $500 per week for 2 weeks effective from 27 September, 2020 for 12 months; prerequisites are the same as provided for above, however an addition provided is that the claimant should have missed minimum 60% scheduled work hours and also should not claim for other sick leave benefits. Medical certificate is not required for this benefit. Furthermore, employees need to apply after one week period attesting that they meet the same requirements.

Third which comes into picture is Canada Recovery Care giving  Benefits  (CRCB) to all Canadian for 1 year per household effective from September 27, 2020. This benefit is $500 per week, for up to 26 weeks. The halt on school physical services, closure of crèches, day program facilities have made families vulnerable for support. The Canadian Government has opened policy to give due response to such concerns so that parents and other dependents don’t have to worry about paying bills.  A collection of prerequisites already discussed is to be reportedly followed; however, additionally, a minimum 60% is to be shown by claimants as unable to work because of the following reasons- claimant is taking care of a child below 12 years, worker can’t work due to advice of medical professional due to COVID-19, the caregiver who takes care is not available. The other valid reason is that the claimant is working for a family member who has a disability or dependent solely on the claimant as caregiver who generally provides due care is not in vicinity as the day program facilities are stopped. Importantly, claimant should have receipt of unpaid leave, otherwise , application stands cancelled and hence will not approved by any means. Also, the claimant should be applicant be any of the following – CERB, EI, Short Term Disability Benefits, Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit or Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) in the same week. Applicants of such policy would apply after a week for which they are seeking a remedy giving testimony that they meet the standards. In Contrast, two members residing in the same house can’t avail the benefit with the same receipt. Also, CRCB is payable through Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and payable in arrears.

These three recovery benefits are taxable which have a real prospect that such incentives will costs $22 billion. The extension another will hit $8 billion and added EI costs are pegged at $7 billion giving a whole and amount as $37 billion. Canada’s incumbent Finance Minister said that the new transition is the “the right thing to do for Canadians”, He emphasized that such an approach is democratic taking into the consideration the prevailing situations.

Work-sharing Program

Apart from these benefits, a single set of temporary measures for Work-Sharing program (WS) has come to support Canadians which is retroactive on March, 2020 until March, 2021. Such measures are inclusive of extension of maximum duration of agreement from 38 to 76 weeks. Employer eligibility is being a year round business in Canada for at least 1 year, either private or public company, at least 2 employees in WS unit. The application will be dismissed under WS if there is reduction in business due to labor dispute, seasonal shortage, and increase in size of workforce. Whereas, eligibility of an employee is being year round full time employees doing day to day jobs to be eligible for EI benefits, agree to reduce working hours by the same percentage. However, students for summer co-op, employees on casual or call basis, self- employed persons will stand as dismissed. The processing time is 10 business days prior to the start of agreement.

CIFB’s Urgency

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the new decision of expanding EI effective from September, 2020 until next year. This will support the families during current crisis. The chamber has also praised the government that such changes are temporary and mainly focus on making Canadians to go back to work. These changes have an administrative, intellectual outlook with the core of focus on citizens of Canada, also, making these changes ad hoc measures as against permanent would mean less strain on the government capabilities to work for future and will always have a lasting impact. Such measures have saved the future growth of country. The Canadian Federation of International Business (CFIB) also urged the authorities to make sure that no plan is permanent which might have a massive unintended consequences, thus, making it to lead a catastrophic – a double burden on government during these extra-ordinary times. To embark upon CFIB’s President’s message such measures have an enduring effect, which focuses on the concerns of the small businesses that workers can now avail EI benefits by showing 120 hours for past one year and get money for up to 26 weeks. However, the criterion standard is according to him too low and serves as a disincentive for many part-time workers to return back to normal conditions (pre-COVID) that will also further Canadian economy’s recovery.

Automatic Admission to EI

The application process has a simplistic outlook by providing a differential credential. The persons availing benefits from Service Canada will be automatically admitted to new EI program, once all the benefits from CERB are completed provided the applicant is eligible in getting EI in which case, he/she may continue to get income support. However, if the claimant is getting CERB benefits from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) he/she will be entitled to new EI benefits if eligibility falls for them, but that is only valid after September 26, 2020. Such applicants need to apply through Service Canada. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) would administer the Canada Recovery Benefits, and Canadians would be able to apply through the CRA.

One needs to continue report for cash inflows – 4 digit access code sent via mail or text, using access code using Internet Reporting Services. Service Canada may issue access code already sent to email in case applicant has asked for new EI benefits, next step is registering for My Service Canada Account (MSCA)- click on log in, tap on EI, choose “latest claim” or “payment information”.

According to Freeland, a total of 4.5 million is receiving benefits from CERB and when EI is revamped a tentative number of 3 million is taken who are going to receive benefits under new scheme effective from September, 2020.

The applications for the new recovery session under EI Program are being put on halt currently until parliament approves the same; parliament is currently prorogued until September 23, 2020 when House of Commons will commence a new session.