Feds to Extend Several Pandemic Income Benefits

On Friday, Feb, 19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, announced that the federal government will extend the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB), and Employment Insurance (EI) for a number of weeks for eligible recipients.

As some workers could begin to exhaust their benefits in late March, this increase would ensure continued support as Canada's economy and labour force recovers, says the government. It would also provide additional access to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, so that people do not have to choose between working sick and earning much-needed income.

The proposed changes would:

  • increase the number of weeks available under the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) by 12 weeks, extending the maximum duration of the benefits through regulation from 26 weeks to up to 38 weeks;
  • increase the number of weeks available under the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) through regulation from the current two weeks to four weeks; and
  • increase the number of weeks of EI regular benefits available by up to 24 weeks to a maximum of 50 weeks through legislation, for claims that are made between Sept. 27, 2020 and Sept. 25, 2021.

To ensure employees in the federally-regulated private sector can access the proposed additional weeks of CRCB and CRSB without the risk of losing their jobs, the maximum length of the leave related to COVID-19 under the Canada Labour Code would also be extended.

Provincial and territorial governments will determine whether they need to amend their job-protected leaves in order to facilitate employees' access to the proposed additional weeks of CRSB and CRCB benefits.

Subject to the legislation being passed by parliament, in addition, self-employed workers who have opted in to the EI program to access special benefits would be able to use a 2020 earnings threshold of $5,000, compared to the previous threshold of $7,555. This change would be retroactive to claims established as of January 3, 2021 and would apply until September 25, 2021.

"We created recovery benefits and introduced flexibilities to the EI program so that workers who needed support in this new phase of the pandemic could continue to provide for their families," Minister Qualtrough. "By increasing the number of weeks available for these important benefits, we are easing a big financial stress for workers and giving them the certainty they need."

"It's been nearly a year since Canadians first faced the challenges of adapting to life during a pandemic. Since the beginning, the Canada Revenue Agency has prioritized our work to ensure any Canadian worker who lost income due to COVID-19 would still have the means to live," adds Minister of National Revenue, Diane Lebouthillier. "Today's announcement demonstrates our commitment to that priority has not changed. Once implemented, these measures will ensure Canadians avoid further financial challenges while maintaining the health and safety of their families."

Effective September 27, 2020 the three temporary recovery benefits were put in place to support workers who do not qualify for EI and require income support in relation to COVID-19. They include the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

As of February 14, 2021, the numbers of unique applicants that have accessed the recovery benefits are:

  • 1,715,090 for the Canada Recovery Benefit;
  • 333,760 for the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit; and
  • 392,280 for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

As of February 14, 2021 there were 2,045,250 active EI regular benefit claimants.

Canadians would continue to apply for the recovery benefits through the Canada Revenue Agency and for Employment Insurance benefits through Service Canada.

For more information, go to

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician and Canadian Music Trade magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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