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Ottawa temporarily sets minimum unemployment rate for EI benefits

Tuesday, August 11, 2020 @ 11:03 AM | By Ian Burns

The federal government has set a minimum unemployment rate for employment insurance (EI) as it begins the transition away from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program.

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough announced, effective Aug. 9, a minimum unemployment rate of 13.1 per cent will be applied temporarily to all EI economic regions across Canada. This temporary measure will set a uniform eligibility requirement for EI regular benefits, provide a minimum entitlement of 26 weeks of benefits, and set the number of best weeks of earnings used in the calculation of the weekly benefit rate at 14.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our government has taken action to support Canadians and businesses facing financial hardship. As we carefully and gradually restart parts of our economy, we recognize that many Canadian workers continue to face challenges,” she said. “The temporary use of a national minimum unemployment rate for the EI program will help more people access EI regular benefits and provide eligible Canadians with access to a minimum 26 weeks of benefits.”

When individuals begin transitioning off of the CERB back to EI regular benefits at the end of August, those living in EI regions with an unemployment rate lower than 13.1 per cent will have their EI benefits calculated on the basis of the 13.1 per cent rate, while individuals living in regions with a higher unemployment rate will have their benefits calculated using the actual rate for that region.

The CERB program was introduced in March and provides $2,000 a month to workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially only supposed to run for 16 weeks, the federal government extended the life of the program to 24 weeks. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last month that the federal government was planning transition Canadians back to the EI system by the end of August.

The government said additional steps will be announced over the coming weeks on the transition process.

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