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

Just Posted

Cowichan RCMP remind public to leave dogs chilling at home on hot days

Dogsafe has designed a Dog in a Hot Car Responder Checklist

Tofino mayor urges “kindness” as tourism reopens

Citizens divided as the West Coast gets set to start welcoming visitors again

Island firefighters calm, then rescue mom and child trapped in elevator

Three-year-old girl given stuffed animal to calm nerves

Chemainus animal sanctuary needs your vote in nationwide contest

RASTA is up for $5,000 from Nutram; contest runs until May 31

Warning: cancelling bus service to the North Island will compromise public health

Mount Waddington Health Network says transportation primary factor for rural health access

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Pregnant B.C. woman catches COVID-19 days before giving birth

Michelle Hunter said it was like a horror movie when caught COVID-19

Spirit bear possibly spotted in West Kootenay

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run near Castlegar on May 27

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

B.C. teacher reprimanded for sharing homophobic and sexist memes, making racist comments

Klaus Hardy Breslauer was accused of making a laundry list of concerning decisions as a science teacher

COVID-19: B.C. too dependent on foreign food production workers

New B.C. job site links unemployed with farm, seafood work

Tahsis opens its gates to visitors to save local economy

Seasonal local businesses that rely on tourism hope to survive despite drop in tourist numbers

Another Asian giant ‘murder hornet’ found in Lower Mainland

This is the farthest east the invasive species has been found so far

B.C. girl left temporarily paralyzed by tick bite sparks warning from family

Mom says parents need to check their kids when they go camping

Most Read