extending CERB

Here's how much extending CERB in Canada until the end of the year would cost

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Canada in earnest a few months ago, millions of people who'd lost their jobs turned to the federal government for help.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was created in order to support those who, through no fault of their own, could no longer work for reasons related to the pandemic: servers whose restaurants were forced to close, childcare providers under quarantine, hospitality industry workers who found themselves laid off and the like.

Each successful, eligible applicant is entitled to $2,000 per month for a period of 16 weeks between March 15 and October 3 of 2020.

Those who began receiving CERB payments right away in mid-March are now coming to the end of their four-month period, prompting cries for the benefit to be extended.

It remains to be seen if the federal government will keep supporting those who are out of work (and not by choice), or if it'll crack down on dishing out payments in light of rampant fraud.

What we do know is that an estimated 8.41 million Canadians have already received money through the CERB to date, equating to roughly $43 billion in federal funds.

The government's original estimate of $35 billion is already well exceeded, but it's possible that Canada could end up spending more than double its current price tag, according to a newly-published report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The arm's length government agency, which "provides independent analysis on the state of the nation's finances, the government's estimates and trends in the Canadian economy," crunched the numbers in regard to how much it would cost to extend CERB until 2021.

"In response to a request from Dan Albas, MP (Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola) the PBO estimated the cost of a proposal modifying the CERB to: extend the program to January 2021; expand the eligibility for benefits by an additional 12 weeks (to 28 weeks total); and, adopt a phase-out for the benefit of $0.50 for each dollar of employment income above $1,000 per month," reads an introduction to the casting note.

The grand total? $57 billion — and that's on top of  the $43 billion already spent.

Whether you think the benefit should be extended or not, it's worth watching what the federal government does in this unprecedented situation.

"Officials in Ottawa must determine how best to roll back CERB and hopefully ease its eight million applicants back into employment," reads a piece in the National Post

"That will require a deft hand, said Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux, as the government will likely have to reduce weekly payments under the program while also expanding eligibility, as more workers are forced into part-time working situations that might fail to cover living expenses."

Lead photo by

Mauro Orlando

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