As the second wave hits, end of CERB sends wrong message

CERB ending
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With CERB payments set to end this upcoming Sunday, people in need of financial assistance as a result of the ongoing pandemic are feeling rightfully anxious. Most who collected these payments will be rolled into EI, but some will inevitably fall through the cracks—a reality the government must address.

Public officials have warned us a second wave is on the horizon and could be even worse than the first—yesterday, Premier Doug Ford confirmed this. Yet the end of CERB suggests Canadians are out of the clear and no longer need the financial support, a contradictory message that’s far from the truth.

If the Canadian government wants people to stay home, programs like CERB would help, especially in the event of another lockdown. Even if Canada doesn’t shut down for the second wave, businesses are going to be hit hard if the outbreak worsens. People will need financial support as much as they did in the spring.

Those who applied for CERB through Service Canada will be automatically enrolled in EI, but those who didn’t will have to file a new application. Avenues for financial assistance are difficult to navigate as it is; transferring programs only makes it that much harder.

There are also Canadians who won’t be eligible for EI. While the program has been expanded to include more people, not everyone will be able to transfer over. Students, for example, received CESB payments over the summer, but don’t qualify for EI. The government has yet to say whether a new means of financial support is in the works for them.

People who are eligible for EI might also have fewer benefits than they did with CERB.

With the second wave looming, now feels like the wrong time to be ending CERB payments. As people begin to transfer over to EI, the government must help make this transition as seamless as possible, either by setting up a phoneline to answer individual questions and concerns or expanding the program to include more people.

Canadians didn’t ask for COVID-19 or to be laid off. Unfortunately, this is our new reality. The government must realize that financial insecurity is only going to increase as the pandemic worsens with the second wave and people inevitably lose their jobs.

Canada can’t control the pandemic, but it can choose to support people who’ve been affected by it and ensure everyone receives financial assistance who needs it.

—Journal Editorial Board

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