Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough rises during a sitting of the House of Commons, Wednesday, April 29, 2020 in Ottawa. Expecting mothers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 in March, and have since been unable to access emergency federal aid, will receive a key benefit for workers once a fix comes into effect on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Fix on Friday to finally let moms-to-be receive CERB, Qualtrough tells MPs

Moms who received less than $500 per week in EI benefits will receive a retroactive top up

Expecting mothers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 in March, and have since been unable to access emergency federal aid, will become eligible Friday for a key benefit — without jeopardizing their parental leave.

The government is implementing a fix on May 8 so that pregnant women can finally receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said Tuesday.

The issue stems from a flaw in which women who identified as pregnant on their employment insurance applications in March weren’t automatically moved over to the pandemic benefit when it launched about one month ago.

Instead, some women entitled to CERB benefits were put on EI instead, which could have impacted their parental leave time, while others simply didn’t receive financial help at all.

Qualtrough told MPs in an email that expectant mothers who haven’t received the CERB will begin to receive backdated payments in the days following the fix.

Those who received less than $500 per week in EI benefits will receive a retroactive top up, and anyone who earned more won’t have payments clawed back.

READ MORE: 7.3M Canadians have received CERB, as wage subsidy pays salaries for another 1.7M: feds

She also promised that affected mothers-to-be who received EI won’t have those weeks docked from their maternity and parental leave entitlements, meaning they won’t have to return to work months before their infant is a year old.

“The biggest thing for me is that my maternity time isn’t cut off,” said Erin Smith, 34, who is expecting her first child in July.

Maternity and parental benefits are the only part of the EI system still operating during the pandemic. Everyone else in need of aid is receiving the 16-week CERB.

Since it became available on April 6 and through to the start of this week, 7.49 million people have received the $2,000-a-month benefit that goes to anyone who either lost a job, earns under $1,000, or whose job prospects have been affected due to COVID-19.

Figures posted Tuesday show the government has paid out $27.72 billion in taxable benefits through the program that has a budget of $35 billion.

When the issue of pregnant women not being paid first reached federal officials, they realized a technological fix wasn’t that easy. The guts of the EI system is 46 years old and isn’t easily changed.

For women like Smith, federal officials planned to put them on EI as an interim measure while their files were moved over to the CERB, and then eventually moved automatically to maternity benefits.

Smith was laid off in mid-March as public health restrictions forced non-essential businesses to close.

The resident of Salt Spring Island, B.C., spent hours on hold trying to get through to Service Canada to resolve her case. After three weeks, she finally got through and started receiving EI on April 20.

“I’m never not grateful for what even EI is giving me,” she said, noting she had help from friends and family in between.

“It’s just when you plan these things you’re wanting that precious time with your little one and to have that kind of in jeopardy on top of everything else … it’s been a different situation than I thought I would be going into.”

READ MORE: Keep ‘pandemic bubbles’ small, top doctor urges as B.C. prepares to loosen rules

Conservative employment critic Dan Albas said he heard many of the same concerns from women — and raised them to Qualtrough directly — who on Tuesday were breathing a sigh of relief the situation is being resolved.

“It’s hard enough to have a child during a pandemic. It’s even more difficult when you don’t have supports,” he said. “The most important thing here is there is a fix coming.”

Still being worked out is how to ensure pregnant women who have lost jobs due to the pandemic can earn enough hours to qualify for EI when their child is born. A committee of MPs was told last week that officials are trying to make sure a change to help affected women qualify doesn’t risk other beneficiaries in the system.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

ChargerQuest expands its EV charging network into Kelowna

The new stations can be found at Manteo Beach Resort and the Eldorado Hotel

Kelowna resident warns North Glenmore community of active thieves in the area

Two thieves stole a pontoon boat from a residence on May 23

Summerland once had Old English theme

Design guidelines were introduced in late 1980s

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Penticton Search and Rescue airlifts injured mountain biker near Naramata

The Penticton Fire Department initially took the call and attended to the injured biker.

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Vancouver Foundation grants benefit Okanagan-Shuswap residents

Grants of up to $500 available for ideas that connect people socially or involve sharing skills

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Water quality advisory rescinded for Central Okanagan system

Turbidity levels improve enough to rescind advisory issued for Killiney Beach system May 11

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

UPDATE: Two sent to hospital following Okanagan highway accident

Drivers in head-on collision air-lifted to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries

Most Read