CFIB calling on federal government to close loophole in EI benefits

Documents obtained by online Ottawa-based news outlet Blacklock’s Reporter show staggering amounts of money were given to teenage workers through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). 

The requirements to qualify CERB said that recipients had to be 15-years-old, and had earned $5,000 in the year prior. If qualifying applicants lost their job due to COVID-19, they would be eligible for $500 per week, even if that job was part-time and didn’t pay nearly that much.

For some, losing their job meant getting paid more, raising concerns of deincentivized job hunting.

The documents obtained show the Canada Revenue Agency paid out over $635 million to teenagers through the CERB. Those teenagers did nothing wrong, as they simply qualified for the money.

“While the CERB program has ended, the government has made the same mistake,” said Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “They’ve now put this program under the Employment Insurance (EI) system. So, people who have lost their jobs, even if they had a part-time job as a 15-year-old, and worked three hours a week on average over the past year, they will now qualify for $500 a week in benefits.”

The difference is that EI has a requirement that applicants be actively searching for work, though Kelly is not sure how well that is being enforced with high levels of unemployment.

“I’m not even opposed to paying part-time workers that are students, if they’ve lost their job, to pay them a benefit out of the Employment Insurance system. But Certainly that benefit shouldn’t be more than they made while employed. That’s the part where this starts to get crazy.”

A solution proposed by the CFIB would be to only pay benefits based on what workers were making before being laid off. That information is already on the government’s records, according to Kelly.

570 NEWS has reached out the Ministry of Finance and Employment and Social Development Canada for comment. 

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