The Canada Emergency Care Benefit (CERB) program is deeply flawed. it’s leaving behind far too many people. The eligibility rules are stifling people’s creativity and innovative ideas to stay connected in the workforce. It’s just absurd that the program actually penalizes people who are hard-working and industrious. Many people have multiple sources of income. Take, for example, many of my constituents are in the creative economy. Even though there is very little work right now, but as an actor, one of my constituents receives a royalty from a previous production. That small amount of royalty income will render him ineligible for CERB. He is also trying to stay connected to the workforce by coaching others by using technology, his effort to try and continue to earn some income will make him ineligible for CERB. For him to refuse that work, he risks losing the client base and at the end, it will just serve to further harm Canada’s economic recovery after COVID-19.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, MP Adam Vaughan is now tweeting “Don’t overreact and impose strict literal interpretations to what is a relatively easy attestation to make.”
If that’s not encouraging people to be less than honest when filling out this application, I don’t know what is.
There is an endless list of examples of how people are cut out from getting the support they need to get through this pandemic. I have another constituent who is unable to meet the eligibility rule of earning $5,000 because she just returned from out of the country. Upon her return, she immediately got two part-time jobs. She lost one part-time job not related to COVID-19. For the other, as a teacher in a Greek school, she was laid off in mid-March because of COVID-19. Now she has no income and she is not eligible for CERB. Her spouse is also out of work because he has yet to get his work visa approved and it has been 6 months since he applied. She is very anxious about how they will survive. She is worried that COVID-19 is going to impact her spousal sponsorship application.
As it stands right now, we don’t even know if people who are sponsoring someone or are being sponsored and have lost their job because of COVID-19 will be eligible for CERB. And even if they qualify, they are worried that it will render them financially inadmissible because they sought government assistance.
The Liberal government fails to understand how people are participating in the workforce in today’s economy. Their emergency benefits program is designed to disincentivized people from being innovative and industrious. When they first announced the program, it sounded great. It was meant to capture those who do not qualify for EI. Now we find out that many many people are falling through the cracks and they will not get the support they need in the middle of this pandemic crisis and that’s not acceptable.
I also have constituents who are trying to apply for their pension. It’s been weeks since and they have sent in their application but still, their application has yet to be processed. They can’t get through Service Canada to inquire about their application. In the meantime, they do not qualify for CERB because they are a pensioner. The program the government has created a giant pile of red tape. The sheer volume of people trying to get some support is overwhelming the system and people are not getting the help they need.
The way to cut that red tape and to ensure no one is left behind is to bring in guaranteed income for all. By adopting the NDP proposal to provide every adult $2,000 with an additional $250 per child will help people get through this crisis. Payments could be made by using the CRA system – those with direct deposit could get the money transferred into their account and those without could get a cheque in the mail. For those who are worried about those who don’t need the support, the government can recover that money through people’s income tax filings in due course. So you don’t have to worry about overpayment.
Right now, in the middle of the pandemic, we need to get help to people and we need a program that does not leave people behind. The only way that the government can fix CERB is to make sure that it’s a program that works for everyone. The Liberals need to accept the fact that CERB is leaving far too many behinds in the middle of this pandemic. The path forward is the NDP proposal – a guaranteed income for all.
By Jenny Kwan, MP