By: David Bunce
Multiple iterations of COVID relief were pursued by the Federal government with the final individual COVID benefit coming to an end this October.
When COVID first began shutting down industry and forcing Canadians into unemployment, the Federal government implemented the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
Originally, CERB was intended to provide $2,000 per month for four months starting in March 2020 to Canadians facing unemployment due to the pandemic. It was later extended until the end of September 2020.
To receive the benefit, individuals must have not quit their job voluntarily, earned at least $5,000 in the past 12 months, have seen a reduction in work due to COVID, and currently earn less than $1,000 per month.
Running alongside CERB was the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) for students unable to find work or unable to work due to the pandemic.
This benefit paid $1,250 per month to qualifying students with an additional $750 per month to students with a disability or those caring for dependents.
In October 2020, the federal government rolled out three new recovery benefits: the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), and Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB).
The CRB paid $500 per week for up to 54 weeks to Canadians who had a reduction in average weekly income of at least 50%. This covered Canadians who lost earning power due to COVID but who did not qualify for unemployment benefits.
The CRSB provided $500 per week for 2 weeks to workers who had contracted COVID and were unable to work as a result.
Finally, the CRCB was for working people who had to take a break to care for dependents when child care centres were closed or the dependent had contracted COVID.
These three benefits came to an end in October 2021. While life has gone back to normal for many Canadians, others are still affected by COVID restrictions.
In New Brunswick, for example, circuit breaker restrictions have people back in single-bubble households.
While those restrictions still allow most people to work, some businesses, like those in the service industry, are negatively affected.
Businesses enduring a slowdown will pass it along to workers in the form of fewer hours or layoffs.
Many servers will also suffer fewer tips leading to less money earned per hour.
One Fredericton server is nervous that circuit breaker measures will arrive here and hopes some kind of benefit will be created on an intermittent basis for those dealing with short-term COVID restrictions.
“I’d like to see the government support workers when temporary restrictions are put in place,” they said, anonymously due to fears over scrutiny from their employer.
Such measures would add a degree of stability to a stressful experience. It can be stressful to not know how much money you will earn on any given week.
“There were times I had no idea if I would be working thanks to COVID restrictions imposed on short notice,” continued the server.
For now, the unemployment rate in Canada is at 6.7%, down from the almost 10% average sustained in 2020 and trending back towards the 5.7% rate from 2019.