Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux waits to appear before the Commons Finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 10, 2020. Parliament’s spending watchdog will detail today possible costs associated with extending and changing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Budget officer Yves Giroux’s report scheduled to be released this morning comes on the same day that the House of Commons meets to discuss proposed changes to the COVID-19-related aid. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that his government wanted to redo how the $2,000-a-month benefit is doled out and get more people back to work, while also cracking down on fraud. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Extending CERB for months could double $60-billion budget, PBO report suggests

Recent figures show 8.41 million people have applied for the CERB, with $43.51 billion in payments made as of June 4

Parliament’s spending watchdog says extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to provide more weeks of payments, and letting people earn some extra income, would cost the federal treasury an additional $64 billion.

Under one scenario the parliamentary budget officer looked at, the government would claw back 50 cents of each dollar earned over $1,000 and allow recipients to receive an additional 12 weeks of benefits.

The first cohort of CERB recipients will hit the current 16-week limit early next month.

Budget officer Yves Giroux’s report says simply extending the maximum number of weeks to 28, and extending the program through to January 2021, would cost about $57.9 billion.

The costs in Giroux’s report don’t take into account what the government has already spent on the CERB, which now has a budget of $60 billion, up from $35 billion, because more people have claimed it for longer than expected.

The most recent federal figures show 8.41 million people have applied for the CERB, with $43.51 billion in payments made as of June 4.

READ MORE: Fines, punishment for CERB ‘fraudsters’, not people who made mistakes: Trudeau

Under either scenario, Giroux estimates that letting recipients receive payments for 28 weeks, rather than the current 16-week maximum, could be an incentive for some to not go back to work as restrictions ease and businesses reopen.

The cost for that could be over $3.2 billion, the report says, but with a caveat that calculations about how recipients respond to changes “are highly uncertain and rely on strong assumptions.”

Similarly, the overall cost estimates could change based on economic conditions and the course of the pandemic itself, and how many companies use a federal wage subsidy to rehire workers and pull them back from the CERB.

The report comes as the House of Commons is set to discuss proposed changes to the COVID-19 pandemic-related aid, with proposals mirroring some of what Giroux probed as part of a request from the Opposition Conservatives.

People would be cut off if they fail to return to work when “it is reasonable to do so” and their employer has asked them to come back, or if they are able to work but decline a reasonable job offer.

Claim periods would be reduced from four to two weeks for Canadians experiencing short-term job loss, or needing to quarantine.

Many small business owners support measures to cut off CERB payment to workers who are offered their jobs back, barring health-related issues, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says.

The organization, which represents tens of thousands of small businesses across the country is also asking for changes to the wage subsidy program to ease revenue-loss requirements and create a sliding scale with smaller subsidies for firms with smaller revenue losses due to COVID-19.

COVID-19: A look at how layoffs turned permanent in past Canadian recessions

CFIB president Dan Kelly said that whatever the Trudeau Liberals decide and the wage subsidy and CERB, they need to do it soon to provide certainty for companies as they reopen.

“While it’s too early to do away with CERB, it’s time to shift gears on the federal support programs to encourage people to rejoin the labour force,” he said in a statement.

Almost three million people remained unemployed in May, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, as even more decided anew to look for work, pushing the unemployment rate to an all-time high of 13.7 per cent.

Men started gaining back jobs at a faster pace than women in May, widening a gender gap in employment losses.

Women with children six and up gained back jobs at a faster rate than those with younger children, showing what experts say is a need for child care to help workers go back to their jobs.

A survey of more than 8,000 regulated child-care centres and home daycares, released Wednesday by a group of child-care groups, suggested that over one-third were uncertain they would be able to reopen with restrictions easing. Some 70 per cent also said they had laid off staff, with almost 90 per cent of centre staff applying for the CERB.

“To get child care back up and running, governments must find ways to bring employees back to the sector,” Don Giesbrecht, chief executive of the Canadian Child Care Federation, said in a statement.

“This means addressing the problem of low wages and inadequate compensation, and putting in place special funding to make sure that child care facilities are safe for both children and staff.”

The federal government has offered $14 billion to provinces to help with reopening plans, with an unknown part of that targeted towards child care.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronaviruseconomy

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

Just Posted

For Owen Bains, having autism makes navigating the rules and social norms around COVID-19 challenging, says his mother. (Courtesy Nicole Zimmel)
Pandemic poses serious problems for children with autism, say Victoria parents

Parents of children with autism say COVID-19 is overwhelming and reducing social skills

Lacrosse player Patrick Dodds, 19, got his start playing for the Saanich Tigers in Braefoot Park and has now been drafted to the Calgary Roughnecks for the upcoming National Lacrosse League season. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Calgary Roughnecks draft young Saanich lacrosse star for coming NLL season

Going pro at 19 is ‘surreal,’ says Patrick Dodds

Nicole Abbott and her 10-month-old daughter, Ophelia, shown here at the Metchosin Fire Hall for the Halloween events last year. Residents are invited to a drive-through version this year. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore fire halls take pandemic-safe approach to Halloween

One spooky lane among three drive-thru features by firefighters

Helping others, especially those struggling with mental health issues, keeps MOD Pizza owner Jim Hayden cooking. (RIck Stiebel/News Staff)
NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read