CERB may discourage people from returning to work, B.C. businesses say

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit may be a disincentive for some employees to return to the job
WATCH: Some business owners trying to survive the pandemic are now trying to overcome the impact of CERB.

Some business owners trying to survive the pandemic say they are now trying to overcome another hurdle — the impact of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

The benefit pays $2,000 a month to Canadians who’ve lost all or most of their income due to COVID-19.

What you need to know about CERB’s extension
What you need to know about CERB’s extension

Hassib Sarwari says it took years to build the team at the Afghan Kitchen restaurant but COVID-19 forced the layoff of nearly 20 staffers leaving the owners working around the clock.

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“We’re here every single day, I work seven days a week, almost like sometimes 15 to 20 hours, to make sure that we survive through the pandemic,” Sarwari said.

READ MORE: Why some Canadians have already run out of CERB: ‘I was in tears’

Now that the Surrey, B.C., restaurant can reopen Sarwari says they are struggling to lure staff back to work.

“There’s no easy answer,” Sarwari said. “A lot of people lost their job when the economy shut down. Some people are opting to stay home and they have their own reason. But yes, it has been very challenging to bring some of our staff back.”

CERB was meant to support workers who had lost their job because of the pandemic. It’s not clear how many people are opting to continue receiving the benefits even though they can return to work.

READ MORE: Canadians facing CERB gap receive explanation via government email

“We certainly have members who are telling us that when they call their workers and ask them to come back, the worker says, ‘You know, I’m good. My bills are being paid. I’m just going to take the rest of the summer off, see how things go and give me a call in the fall,'” Canadian Federation of Independent Business president Dan Kelly said.

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The organization says the federal government is looking to introduce new guidelines, which would include an end to benefits if an employee is called back, and a requirement that people receiving funds be available and looking for work, as is the case with EI.

“Moving forward with our bill would give us further measures to encourage people and to make sure that people were taking work when it came up,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces 8-week extension to CERB eligibility benefits
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces 8-week extension to CERB eligibility benefits

“We’re still looking at ways of moving forward to encourage people to look for work and to make sure that they are taking jobs that become available.”

Right now, a person qualifies for CERB if they do not expect to earn more than $1,000 in employment or self-employment income for at least 14 days in a row during a four-week period.

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Sarwari thinks raising the $1,000 threshold would encourage more people to return to work.

“I believe they really need to look at that minimum $1,000 threshold and make some adjustments to help out not only the families, but small businesses as well.”

Both Sarwari and Kelly acknowledge some workers are unable to return to work because of health concerns or a lack of reliable childcare.

They hope the government will find the right balance between Canada’s cash-strapped households and small businesses.