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I would like to respond to Mr. Roidan Lamb’s letter of May 16, 2020, headlined “Some still falling through cracks in Feds’ COVID-19 aid.” (per Tri-City News website, linked from the Richmond News). Though it appears that Mr. Lamb is not one of my constituents, I believe his sincere concerns are shared as well by a number of Coquitlam — Port Coquitlam residents.
Mr. Lamb expresses concern about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), and that if you didn’t earn at least $5000 in the past year, you don’t qualify for it. Some people are “left out,” he feels, and don’t “get” anything. He feels this is discriminatory.
It is really important to emphasize that this huge COVID-19-pandemic effort is not about everybody “getting” something, but about helping everybody to “get through” the crisis. It’s NOT about everybody getting a piece of pie, or whose piece is bigger; it’s about seeing that everybody who needs it (because of the pandemic) gets at least a crust of bread to help them through.
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The CERB itself is a taxable benefit designed for people who have had to stop work, been laid off, had substantial hours cut-backs, or had to shut down their small business — due to COVID-19. Since it’s about loss of income, it is tied to income — a requirement, as Mr. Lamb notes, to have earned a minimum of $5000 in the past year, and for the benefit period to earn no more than $1000/month. It is nevertheless very broad, including small sole-proprietors, and mom and pop operations who wouldn’t be able to get EI, and people who have recently run-out of EI. It’s a small degree of income replacement to help tide people over for a short while.
I would like to advise Mr. Lamb, however, that besides the CERB, there is an array of programs for individuals in a variety of situations, all tied to addressing COVID-19-induced hardship.
For example, recognizing that for people with low-income, whether or not their income has been affected, costs for food and medicine and such have gone way up — due to COVID-19. So people who qualify for GST rebates get a tax-free additional one-time benefit of close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. This includes many seniors. There is no requirement to have earned $5000 in the past year.
Additionally, for seniors, though their basic pension income is not affected by COVID-19, as noted their costs have gone up — due to COVID-19. So those who qualify for Old-age Security (OAS) will receive a tax-free additional one-time benefit of $300, and those who qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will receive a tax-free additional one-time benefit of $200. There is no requirement to have earned $5000 in the past year, though if they have done so they might also qualify for the CERB.
Similarly, parents are also hammered by rising costs often coupled with loss of income — due to COVID-19. So those who qualify for the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) will receive a tax-free one-time extra $300 per child. There is no requirement to have earned $5000 in the past year. (This is a one-time extra, not per month, as Mr. Lamb proposes. There will also be an annual cost-of-living increase to this program in July, but this is not related to COVID-19.)
Homeowners facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 may be eligible for a mortgage payment deferral of up to six months. (This would be an agreement between the homeowner and their lender.) There is no federal requirement to have earned $5000 in the past year.
There will be also a temporary wage top-up for low-income essential workers who are working extraordinarily hard and helping the rest of us through this. Each province or territory will determine which workers will be eligible for support, and how much support they will receive. There is no federal requirement to have earned $5000 in the past year.
In further example, Students, whose opportunities of earning during the summer are severely diminished due to COVID-19 can apply for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), and other assistance regarding student loans, and such. There is no requirement to have earned $5000 in the past year, but if they have done so, they might qualify for the CERB instead.
In addition, there are programs for businesses of various sizes, involving grants, loan guarantees, low-interest loans, tax deferrals, wage-subsidies, commercial rent subsidies and so on, and each has its own qualification criteria.
Even here, though, the primary focus is on people; we need businesses to survive so they’re able to kick into gear when the time comes, to get our economy going again, and so that there will be jobs to which to return. In particular, the wage-subsidies help businesses stay connected to their employees, even if they don’t have the revenue to support full wages — so they will remain ready to gear up when that time does come.
This is a partial list. I encourage Mr. Lamb and others to go to the website Canada.ca/CoronaVirus to see all the available COVID-19-response programs and their details. I would also suggest that Mr. Lamb contact his own MP regarding his particular situation to see if his situation is indeed a COVID-19 gap, and how it might be resolved.
It’s also important to emphasize that none of this is about fixing all the underlying problems of society, though that would certainly be nice. That’s what we work on the rest of the time. Right now, the focus of all of this is just to get us all through the COVID-19 pandemic as best we can.
Please go to Canada.ca/CoronaVirus for the latest information on all aspects of the federal government COVID-19-panedmic response. In particular: