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Update on New Federal Pandemic Support Programs

On October 2, 2020, the COVID-19 Response Measures Act (formerly Bill C-4) received Royal Assent. Part 1 of this Act is the Canada Recovery Benefits Act, and it creates three new temporary recovery benefits to support Canadians who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. These benefits will be in place for one year beginning September 27, 2020 and expiring on September 25, 2021. As of October 5, 2020, employees will be able to apply for the following benefits through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). These benefits will be paid on a weekly basis, and employees will have to apply for each week they are eligible.

1. Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for employees 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. Key eligibility requirements include:

a. Child under 12 years old - The reduction in the scheduled work week is due to caring for a child under 12 years old because:
(A) the school or other facility that the child normally attended was, for reasons related to COVID-19, closed, or open only at certain times or open only for certain children,
(B) the child could not attend the school or other facility because

  • (I) the child contracted or might have contracted COVID-19,
  • (II) the child was in isolation on the advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority for reasons related to COVID-19, or
  • (lll) the child would, in the opinion of a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner, be at risk of having serious health complications if the child contracted COVID-19, or

(C) the person who usually cared for the child was not available for reasons related to COVID-19.

Or

b. Family Member requiring supervised care - The reduction in the scheduled work week is due to caring for a family member requiring supervised care because:
(A) the day program or facility that the family member normally attended was, for reasons related to COVID-19, unavailable or closed, available or open only at certain times or available or open only for certain persons,
(B) the family member could not attend the day program or facility because

  • (I) the family member contracted or might have contracted COVID-19,
  • (II) the family member was in isolation on the advice of their employer, a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority for reasons related to COVID-19, or
  • (lll) the family member would, in the opinion of a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner, be at risk of having serious health complications if the family member contracted COVID-19, or

(C) the care services that are normally provided to the family member at their place of residence were not available for reasons related to COVID-19.

2. Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) of $500 per week 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.

Specifically, key eligibility requirements include:
(i) they contracted or might have contracted COVID-19,
(ii) they 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, or
(iii) they isolated themselves on the advice of their employer, a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority for reasons related to COVID-19;

For both the CRCB and CRSB, employees who receive other CRA benefits or paid leaves from an employer do not qualify for these benefits. In relation to points (i) and (ii) immediately above in relation to the CRSB, if an employee is symptomatic or otherwise has a medical basis for being disabled from work, employers are to continue to place employees on sick leave to the extent that credits are available, and the CRSB would not apply. In relation to point (iii) above, asymptomatic employees who are directed to self-isolate would be eligible for either the CRSB or paid leave from the employer, but the employer cannot “top up” the CRSB. Based on information so far received from the CRA, any employer top-up would render the absent employee ineligible for this benefit. CSSEA understands that the provincial government will not be continuing to fund employers’ extraordinary costs for these paid leaves. As a result, assuming that employees cannot be deployed to work from home, employers should support absent employees to apply for the CRCB or CRSB as applicable, after other paid leaves have been considered or exhausted (ie. Vacation, overtime banks, special leaves). Employees would then be placed on unpaid leave of absence status, but employers are recommended to continue to pay employees’ health and welfare benefits premiums until further notice as these leaves are COVID-19 related.

Employees will need to attest that they meet all criteria for payment of the benefits, and may be required to provide the government with additional information or proof.

As of October 12, 2020, employees will also be able to apply for:

3. Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), which will provide eligible workers with $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for those who have stopped working and who are not eligible for EI, or had their employment income reduced by at least 50% due to COVID-19. This benefit will be paid in two-week periods. It most closely aligns with the previous CERB benefit that was available.

Eligible individuals will be able to apply for the various recovery benefits online through the CRA’s My Account portal or by phone at 1.833.966.2099 .

For more information, see:
https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/10/legislation-to-support-new-recovery-benefits-for-canadians-unable-to-work-due-to-covid-19.html
for a full menu of supports available to both employees and employers, please also see:
https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html

CUPE BC Provincial Election 2020 Statement

John Horgan

The B.C. provincial election on October 24 provides British Columbians an opportunity to decide between two starkly different visions of the way forward for the province as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery, CUPE BC President Paul Faoro said today.

“For three-and-a-half years the John Horgan government has made incredible progress in repairing the damage done by more than 16 years of BC Liberals, and they’ve been able to do so with the slimmest of margins in the Legislature,” said Faoro. “The BC NDP government has introduced Childcare BC, the first new social program in generations. They have created Clean BC, the most ambitious plan to fight climate change in North America, and they brought in the largest middle-class tax cut in B.C. history by getting rid of the regressive MSP.

“And the government has shown exemplary leadership in the fight against COVID-19, taking direction from key public health officials like Dr. Bonnie Henry, responding to the financial challenges faced by people and families, and putting additional resources into the important public services that all British Columbians depend upon.”

Faoro said that CUPE BC would focus on ensuring members and the general public are aware of the options available to vote safely. From requesting mail-in ballots from Elections BC to voting in advance polls, there are many alternatives to voting before Election Day, helping reduce line-ups or congestion at polling places.

“This is the first election with a complete ban on corporate and union contributions to political parties and campaigns—one of the very first acts of the Horgan government. For many years, CUPE BC has called for the elimination of big money from our elections, and we’re very happy that this election will be decided on the merits of the parties’ platforms and records, and not by how many millionaires donated to a campaign,” said Faoro.

“The record of Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals is clear. For 16 years they ran roughshod over the rights of working people, governed almost exclusively for the wealthy and their big corporate backers, and slashed the public services that help build strong communities. And from what we’ve heard from them so far shows they haven’t learned from their brief time in Opposition. In contrast, in less than four years—with a minority government—the BC NDP has made enormous steps in rebuilding an economy that works for everyone, not just the elites at the top.

“I encourage all CUPE members to vote for the BC NDP candidate in their community. We really are all in this together, and we should vote for the party with the best plan for working people. The choice is clear.”