‘I understand the frustration’: Amarjeet Sohi discusses Edmonton’s exclusion from improved EI benefits
EDMONTON – Canada’s Infrastructure Minister said he understands the disappointment felt by laid off Edmonton workers after the federal government announced Edmonton was excluded from improved Employment Insurance benefits announced in the federal budget.
“I understand the frustration and I’m concerned about that too,” Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said.
Alberta is divided into four EI regions: Edmonton, Calgary, Northern Alberta and Southern Alberta. The changes impact three of the four regions, excluding the Edmonton region.
The regions are based on where a person lives, not where he or she works, so if an Edmonton resident has been laid off from their job in Fort McMurray, they wouldn’t be eligible for the special benefit.
“That’s how the whole EI system is designed. It’s designed in a way where you get benefits where you live, not where you work and that’s throughout the country,” Sohi explained.
The federal government announced EI benefits in 12 jurisdictions hit hardest by unemployment can now be claimed for a maximum of 50 weeks, an increase of five weeks.
Alberta’s unemployment rate rose to 7.4 per cent in January, the highest it’s been in 20 years. However, Edmonton’s unemployment is at 6.5 per cent. The criteria for a region to receive the added benefits is for the unemployment rate to increase two percentage points. Edmonton has experienced a jump of 1.8 percentage points.
City of Edmonton Chief Economist John Rose believes Edmonton will hit the criteria sooner than later. Sohi said if that happens, the federal government will help.
“There is a process that we would have to follow, but we understand that we have to provide this temporary relief in these regions and if other regions match the same criteria, then we would have to act in a similar manner,” Sohi said.
“Our support will be to make sure people who need the support are getting the support.”
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