Greetings, everyone. From time to time we’ll be adding information to the CUPE Local 46 website that you may find relevant. This post comes to us from North99.
If you enjoy this content, please consider visiting their website at: North99.
– – – – –
A New Benefit
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced some changes to the already-announced $15 billion relief package, and they are positive — though the benefits still include some glaring omissions.
Let’s start with the good news for a change. Gone are the separate Emergency Support Benefit and Emergency Sickness Benefit. These have been merged into a single Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The government appears to have realized what we pointed out last week: the two benefits were going to open up too many cracks through which people could slip, and the Support Benefit in particular was insufficiently resourced.
The new Emergency Response Benefit fixes many of these issues:
- It includes a flat transfer of $2,000 per month for a four month period. This is an improvement on the previously announced benefits which were structured like Employment Insurance (with benefit amounts tied to past earnings).
- It covers far more people, with anyone who has lost all their income eligible regardless of their status as a full-time employee, part-time employee, contractor, or freelancer. Everyone who has lost their income qualifies.
- The projected budget for the CERB is up substantially to $52 billion.
The upshot of these changes is that most workers — 84% according to one report — will be better off with the CERB than with EI, either because they would not have been covered with EI or EI would have paid them less.
However, the CERB does not cover everyone who is going to need support soon. In particular, the following groups will find little relief from the benefit:
- Recent graduates who have not yet entered the job market. Only those with at least $5,000 of income in the 12 months preceding their application date are eligible.
- Workers with severely reduced wages. Only those who have lost all their income are eligible. Workers who have lost a substantial share of their income could still be worse off than they would be had they lost all their hours.
There are a number of ways to solve these problems.
The government could expand eligibility by eliminating the $5,000 income requirement and allowing workers to top-up their wages to $2,000 per month if they have seen their income reduced.
A simpler solution would be to make the CERB a universal cash benefit available to everyone. This would be more expensive, of course, but the government could use tax measures to claw back the benefit from higher-income earners next year.
The objective of this program should be to get cash into people’s hands as quickly as possible, without introducing unnecessary complexity. More complexity means more delays and more people inadvertently excluded from relief.
The CERB does a better job at achieving this goal than the previously announced supports, but we still see layers of eligibility criteria. This is going to slow down the distribution of cash and exclude people who really do need support (like the groups mentioned above).
I’m more optimistic about the government’s response than I was last week because the CERB indicates they are moving toward direct and simple cash transfers for everyone. But there is still more work to do and people who are left behind by the latest iteration of the relief package. I’ll be looking in the coming days to see whether or not the Federal government continues to move in the right direction, or whether we get more complicated, means-tested benefits that are less helpful.
Note: After this was written the Federal government announced a dramatic expansion of its wage subsidy for small and medium-sized businesses from 10% to 75% of wages for the next three months. This is a massively important announcement as it will allow businesses who would otherwise be forced to lay off workers to keep them on payroll during the crisis. The logic of this measure is that it is better to limit bankruptcies, layoffs, and business closures now so that the economy can restart with less friction once the pandemic has passed. Economist Armine Yalnizyan shared a useful write-up of today’s announcements on Twitter.
– – – – –
We are tracking daily changes in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Italy, the United States, and Canada. The chart below shows the number of cases reported in each country, beginning from the day at least 150 cases were confirmed (March 13th, in Canada’s case).
Confirmed cases in Canada ticked up significantly today, with Ontario reporting 837 active cases (with 170 new cases), the single largest per-day increase yet. Quebec’s numbers also jumped, due in part to a change in how they are counting (now including probable cases in their total case count).
We will have to see how these numbers evolve in the coming days as stricter distancing measures have time to show their impact.
Data is current as of 9:30AM EDT on March 26th, and is sourced from the New York Times and Health Canada.
– – – – –
British Columbia has banned evictions, frozen rents as of April 1st, and will be distributing $500 per month for the next three months to assist with rent payments for those facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. Tenants will have to apply for the benefit, and if successful the rent assistance will be sent directly to the landlords.
B.C. has also imposed penalties including fines or jail time for people who disobey public health orders.
Ontario announced a $17 billion relief package, $10 billion of which represents tax deferrals and exemptions for businesses. The other $7 billion includes $3 billion in new healthcare funding (a welcome influx, but which comes just months after Premier Doug Ford cut healthcare funding), an additional one-time payment of $200 per child to parents, and a doubling of the Guaranteed Annual Income System benefit for low-income seniors.
– – – – –
South of the Border
The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States crossed 1,000 and the country is now reporting over 68,000 cases.
New York reported 385 of those deaths, and harrowing stories out of New York City hospitals paint a picture of a healthcare system becoming rapidly overwhelmed by the influx of patients. A FEMA briefing obtained by the New York Times indicated the city’s hospitals would run out of ICU beds by Friday.
Meanwhile, 3 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in the past week, the most ever recorded. But don’t worry: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called this fact “not relevant”.
And in other news, President Donald Trump floated plans to station 1,000 U.S. soldiers along the Canadian border, apparently to limit border crossings.
– – – – –
Around the World
As China attempts to avert a second wave of infections, the country is shutting its borders to all foreign nationals (including those with visas and residency permits). Elsewhere in the country, Wuhan has announced its quarantine will be lifted on April 8th.
Meanwhile, Europe continues to struggle to contain the spread of the virus, with 74,000+ cases in Italy and 56,000+ cases in Spain. That Italian figure includes over 5,000 medical workers.
India, a country which has received little coverage but has a population of 1.3 billion, might be the next big battleground in the fight against the coronavirus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered a nation-wide lockdown, but many believe the state’s capacity to cope with a pandemic is limited. There are not reliable estimates of cases, but some models project India could have nearly 160,000 cases within the next two weeks.
That’s it for this edition of The Coronavirus Report. If you want to forward this to a friend, they can sign up for future editions on our website. I’ll be back next Tuesday with more updates.
– – – – –
Want to continue reading? Here’s the latest stories touching on the coronavirus outbreak from Passage.
COVID-19 Hasn’t Stopped Postmedia From Publishing Bullshit
Postmedia is still giving a platform to columnists to say dangerous things that fly in the face of science.
The Nordics Show Us How To Protect Workers During COVID-19
Nordic states are boosting already generous paid sick leave and employment insurance benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. Canada should follow their lead.
Canada Should Nationalize Oil Companies, Not Bail Them Out
Alberta’s profound exposure to both deadly viruses and commodity price crashes is a result of our economic system that favours the 1%, and austerity.