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Special COVID-19 Income Support Measures: Information for Academic Staff Associations

Some academic staff associations have negotiated letters of understanding to ensure that members do not lose work or income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly important for contract academic staff, who often lack adequate paid sick leave and may be facing job loss or non-renewal.

Where the employer is not providing adequate income protection, federal income support measures may provide some relief. Employer-provided and federal benefits may be coordinated to fully protect income. More information about Government of Canada benefits and services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.

Transitioning from the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to Recovery Benefits:

The CERB  ended as of December 2, 2020. A previous CERB recipient may be eligible for one of the new recovery benefits retroactive to September 27, 2020 and available until September 25, 2021:

  • Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB): will provide eligible workers with $500 per week (taxable, tax deducted at source) for up to 26 weeks for those who are not employed or self-employed due to COVID-19 and who are not eligible for EI, or who had their employment/self-employment income reduced by at least 50% due to COVID-19. This benefit will be paid in two-week periods. If you are eligible for the CRB, you can receive $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) for a 2-week period. If your situation continues past 2 weeks, you will need to apply again. You may apply up to a total of 13 eligibility periods (26 weeks) between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.
  • Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB): will provide $500 per week (taxable, tax deducted at source) for up to 26 weeks per household for workers unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19, or because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine or is at high risk of serious health implications because of COVID-19. This benefit will be paid in one‑week periods.
  • Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB): will provide $500 per week (taxable, tax deducted at source) for up to a maximum of two weeks, for workers who are unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they contracted COVID-19, self-isolated for reasons related to COVID-19, or have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19. This benefit will be paid in one-week periods.

Modifications to Employment Insurance (EI) Eligibility:

Employment Insurance (EI) benefits remain an option for Canadians who lose their job as a result of COVID-19. As of September 27, 2020, temporary (1 year) changes have been made to the EI program in order to increase access:

  • Canadians with 120 hours of insurable work or more can now qualify for regular and special benefits, wherever they live in Canada.
  • Canadians claiming EI benefits for a job loss are now eligible for at least 26 weeks of benefits.
  • Canadians receiving EI are now eligible for a benefit rate of at least $500 per week, or $300 per week for extended parental benefits.
  • The usual one-week waiting period and the requirement to provide a medical certificate are waived for EI sickness benefit claimants.
  • If you received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the 52-week period to accumulate insured hours will be extended.

Transitioning to EI from CERB:

After CERB ends, if  continued financial assistance is needed, one might be eligible to transition to EI benefits, either through Service Canada or by applying through CRA. It is not possible to collect recovery benefits for the same period as EI.

When deciding whether to apply for EI, the following should be considered:

  • EI requires workers to prove they are eligible for the program under a stringent set of rules. Some workers who were eligible for CERB will not be eligible for EI.
  • Unlike CERB, EI is tied to a recipient’s previous employment income. Both programs provide taxable benefits, but taxes on the CERB will be deferred. Accounting for tax deductions, one may receive less money through EI at this time than with the CERB.

Work-Sharing Program:

The federal government has a work-sharing program that aims to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary decrease in business activity beyond the control of the employer. The program provides EI benefits to eligible employees who agree to reduce their normal working hours and share the available work while their employer recovers. The employer and the employees (and the union, if applicable) must agree to participate in a Work-Sharing agreement and must apply together.

With a work-sharing agreement, employees can work part-time and receive EI benefits part‑time. Eligibility criteria for employees include:

  • If a “core employee”, that is, year-round permanent full-time or part-time employees who are required to carry out the everyday functions of normal business activity);
  • If hours have been reduced as a result of COVID-19; and,
  • If these reduced hours are expected to continue for the next six weeks.

Temporary special measures to address COVID have extended work-sharing by:

  • extending the duration of work-sharing agreements by an additional 38 weeks, for a total of 76 weeks; and,
  • the mandatory waiting period has also been waived so that employers with a recently expired agreement may immediately apply for a new agreement.

For more information on work-sharing, visit here.

Student Support

  • The maximum weekly amount for Canada Student Loan has been increased from $210 to $350 and the eligibility for loans has been broadened by removing the expected student’s and spouse’s contributions for 2020-21.
  • The moratorium eliminating interest on repayments of the federal portion of the Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans has been extended through 2021‑22.
  • For eligible students, Canada Student Grants have been doubled for the 2020-2021 year: up to a maximum of $6,000 for full-time students and $3,600 for part-time studies.
  • An additional $75 million for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students in 2020-2021.
  • The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) has closed. To support youth employment,
    • Canada Summer Jobs program will be expanded up to 120,000 job placements in 2021-22 – an increase of 40,000 from the previous year.
    • the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy will provide approximately 45,300 job placements for young people (aged 15-30), for an estimated approximately 17,500 new job placements.

For more information on student aid, visit here.