Dan Albas

COLUMN: Ongoing changes to federal assistance

Initial announcements have been modified during COVID-19 pandemic

In many ways the ongoing responses coming out of Ottawa resembles the movie Groundhog Day.

In this case, the government makes a major program announcement only to be followed one week later by another announcement that is often significantly different from what was announced the week previously.

For example, in my March 18 report I referenced the newly announced the Emergency Care Benefit program and the Emergency Support Benefit Programs and shared details of these initiatives.

By my March 25 report, both of these support programs had essentially been cancelled with the creation of new Canadian Emergency Response Benefit Program.

There has been a similar pattern for small and mid-sized business where at first a 10 per cent wage subsidy was announced and was said to sufficient.

Two weeks later a new wage subsidy program was announced that provided benefits of 75 per cent of wages, provided losses could be established from this time of year one year ago.

READ ALSO: COLUMN: Responding with the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy

READ ALSO: COLUMN: Financial help during the COVID-19 pandemic

Last week, this was again changed to reflect losses occurring since Jan. 1 of this year.

Currently the biggest challenge of the wage subsidy program is that benefits expect to be a minimum of six weeks away.

Many businesses have stated is too long for them to survive.

This week, the government announced new eligibility criteria for the CERB benefit program.

A summary of the key changes in eligibility are as follows:

Those who earn wages but earn less $1,000 a month will become eligible to apply for CERB.

Those expecting a seasonal job that no longer exists will be able apply for CERB.

Those who have run out of EI after Jan. 1, 2020 will be eligible to receive further support.

Unfortunately, when I and other members asked for when these changes will take effect, the minister responsible said the timeline for changes is unclear.

Some changes may come faster as they only require a regulatory change.

Others may require a legislative change and require Parliament’s approval which can take longer.

Virtually every one of the changes and re-announcements that have occurred over the past month has been made because Ottawa has, at first, vastly underestimated the significance of need that exists in our communities.

In short these programs as announced, failed to do what was required.

Too many Canadians in need were falling through the cracks.

As the Opposition, all parties have raised these serious concerns and in my view the government has been listening to these concerns.

There are still cracks remaining and citizens in need that require assistance that they currently still do not qualify for.

However, with the government and opposition working together on a “Team Canada” approach I believe, with the CERB eligibility expansion announced this week, this list is getting smaller and we will continue to ensure this progress continues.

My question to you: Are you satisfied with the work the government and opposition are doing in Ottawa on your behalf?

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.

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