‘A work disincentive’: Manitoba premier calls on feds to redesign coronavirus CERB funding

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is calling for changes to the federal government's CERB funding, calling it a disincentive to work Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is calling on the federal government to redesign its Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) — gap funding for workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic — describing it as “a work disincentive.”

At a press conference Tuesday Pallister said the program penalizes Canadians wanting to return to work.

Read more: Manitoba sees 13th straight day with no coronavirus cases reported, 1 known active case remains

“CERB is increasingly acting as a work disincentive to some Canadians, as it penalizes them financially for returning to work full time,” said Pallister.

“Businesses need workers as they restart. Changing CERB so returning workers can keep some of this benefit, rather than lose it all at once, would help both businesses and workers.”

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The federal government started taking applications for CERB in April.

The program pays $2,000 every four weeks for up to four months to workers who have lost all of their income as a result of COVID-19.

Read more: The new COVID-19 benefit for workers has launched: Here’s how to apply

The benefit is open both to Canadians who qualify for employment insurance (EI) and those who don’t, including employees who don’t have enough work hours to meet EI requirements, and those who are self-employed.

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Pallister said Tuesday the rules under CERB disqualify workers who earn more than $1,000 a month, and suggested the federal government look at a phased reduction of funding as workers return to their previous or new jobs, instead of losing the full benefit all at once.

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He said his plan removes any disincentive to return to work and would help business and industry attract employees.

Pallister said he’s written to all other Canadian premiers asking them to join him in his call for changes to the funding.

Read more: Manitoba offers up to $2K for Manitobans to head back to work, drop CERB

It’s not the first time Pallister has expressed concerns over the federal funding.

Last month his government launched the Manitoba Job Restart program, which offers up to $2,000 in taxable money to Manitobans who head back to work — as long as they agree to give up the CERB funding — amid COVID-19.

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“It’s become increasingly evident that the (federal) program … is actually preventing some Canadians from returning to work on a full-time basis,” the premier said at the time, although he did not provide provincial data.

Read more: Struggle to fill Manitoba jobs not due to lack of willing staff: Retail Council

“Our program is designed so that people don’t suffer financially when they go back to work.”

On Tuesday the province said more than 2,500 Manitobans had signed up for the Manitoba Job Restart program since it launched June 26.

A total of 246,440 Manitobans have used CERB since the program was introduced in early April, according to Statistics Canada data released Wednesday.

–With files from Erik Pindera and Erica Alini 

Click to play video: 'More than 246K Manitobans receive CERB amid coronavirus pandemic, Statistics Canada says' More than 246K Manitobans receive CERB amid coronavirus pandemic, Statistics Canada says
More than 246K Manitobans receive CERB amid coronavirus pandemic, Statistics Canada says – Jul 9, 2020

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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