The end of (most) individual pandemic benefit programs (November 2021)
Since the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) replaced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) just over a year ago, more than 2 million individual Canadians have applied for the CRB, a benefit which paid $900 (pre-tax) per week until July 17 of this year, and $600 (pre-tax) per week thereafter. For the most recent benefit period for which figures are available (September 12-25, 2021), 821,560 Canadians received the CRB. In total, just over $27 billion in CRB amounts have been issued by the federal government since October 2020.
It had been previously announced that the CRB program would end on Saturday, October 23, 2021. While there was some speculation that the program would be wound down in a gradual way, such is not the case. On October 21, the federal government announced that the CRB would end on October 23, and that there would be no new general pandemic relief program for individuals to replace it. The government did announce that a new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) would be implemented, but benefits under that program will be provided only on a localized basis, in areas where government authorities order a general lockdown for pandemic-related reasons.
Details of the new benefit are still to be announced; however, the federal government announcement made on October 21 did provide the following information. The CWLB will be
$300 a week;
strictly available to workers whose work interruption is a direct result of a government-imposed public health lockdown;
available until May 7, 2022, with retroactive application to October 24, 2021 should the situation warrant it;
accessible for the entire duration of a government-imposed public health lockdown (up until May 7, 2022);
available to workers who are ineligible for Employment Insurance (EI) and those who are eligible for EI, as long as they are not paid benefits through EI for the same period.
Two other individual pandemic relief programs which were also scheduled to end on October 23 have, however, been extended. The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) are both extended to be available until May 7, 2022. In addition, the maximum duration of benefits under both plans has been extended.
The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit of $500 (pre-tax) per week is available to individuals who
are unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they contracted COVID-19, or have been advised to self-isolate 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, or government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
The CRSB is currently available for a maximum of 4 weeks. Effective as of October 24, 2021 and until May 7, 2022, that eligibility is extended by 2 weeks, to be available for a maximum of 6 weeks.
The CRCB is provided to those who must stay home to care for an ill or vulnerable relative. The benefit of $500 (pre-tax) per week per household is applicable where an individual is 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 who needs supervised care, because schools, day-cares, or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19; or
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.
The CRCB was previously available for a maximum of 42 weeks. Effective as of October 23, 2021 and until May 7, 2022, that eligibility period is extended to 44 weeks.
While Canadians who are (or may become) eligible for either the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit or the Canada Caregiving Recovery Benefit can be assured that such benefits will continue to be available for almost another seven months, current recipients of the Canada Recovery Benefit are faced with the immediate need to replace income received from that program. Those recipients should be aware that, while the program ended on October 23, 2021, applications for CRB amounts for benefit periods up to that date can still be made. Each CRB application is made for a particular two-week period, and applications for a particular period can be made up to 60 days after the end of that period. Consequently, applications for the final CRB period of October 10 to 23, 2021 can be made until December 22, 2021.
Finally, the application period for a number of prior CRB benefit periods still remain open. A listing of the benefit periods for which application can still be made, together with information on the applicable deadlines and the application process can be found on the federal government website at https://www.canada.ca/content/canadasite/en/revenue-agency/services/benefits/recovery-benefit/crb-periods-apply.html#h-2.
Information on the changes to existing individual pandemic benefit programs is available on the same website at https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html#individuals.