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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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
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