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P.E.I. residents whose EI claims expire before work resumes can seek help

<p>Robert Morrissey speaks at Hernewood intermediate school in West Prince Saturday during the vote for the Egmont riding’s next Liberal candidate. Morrissey is one of four in the running to become the next Liberal candidate.</p>
Robert Morrissey speaks at Hernewood Intermediate School in this file photo.

ALBERTON, P.E.I. - A Prince Edward Island Member of Parliament is urging eligible constituents to make use of a new P.E.I. seasonal worker skills initiative the federal government is funding.

“The EI (employment insurance) system, as it is currently structured, is failing the most vulnerable of the seasonally unemployed – those in remote communities, those with limited skills and dependent on short-term seasonal work,” said Bobby Morrissey, MP for Egmont.
The targeted short-term support, he explains, seeks to assist the most vulnerable of the seasonally employed, those whose benefits expire before their next round of employment begins.  

However, he is concerned many who could benefit might not be aware of the new program.

Morrissey estimates that those who would benefit from the initiative represent probably less than five per cent of the people who draw EI. He said the new initiative is in place to make sure they don’t slip through the cracks.

The program was announced in the federal budget in February, but it only got rolled out in late April and is being administered at the provincial level.

In P.E.I., the program is administered by Workplace Learning P.E.I. which provides essential skills training and approaches employers about taking seasonal employees back early.

“This funding came with a requirement that individuals who take part in the program would get an element of the essential skills training,” said Lori Johnston, executive director of Workplace Learning.

“Some people might feel it’s not a benefit when they have to go for training, but when they do start the training, they feel it is a benefit,” she said, explaining the training is very responsive and geared to the individual.

“Some people might feel it’s not a benefit when they have to go for training, but when they do start the training, they feel it is a benefit.”
-Lori Johnston

Through Workplace Learning, up to three weeks of individualized training can be provided for those who cannot find work immediately. Those who do find work can still attend training a half day to one day a week. Workplace Learning has access to Holland College campuses for providing Essential Skills.

Johnston explains that when someone expresses interest in the program, “we have them fill out an application or we can do that over the phone.”

Once an application is submitted, Skills P.E.I. contacts the employer where the employee expects to be returning to work to see if there is a possibility for them to return earlier. Wage subsidies are available.

Johnston noted some tourism operators have been able to hire workers back early because of the subsidy, and they benefit from the help in getting their properties ready for the season.

The most significant benefit, she said, is for the employee who gets extra weeks of income and, therefore, a longer EI claim next year, which helps to reduce the EI gap.

About 30 applicants have been assisted since the program was announced three weeks ago, and Johnston said awareness of the program is growing.

“I’m pleased there is a recognition within the ministry and by the minister himself, that changes must come to ensure that these people are captured in the system,” Morrissey added.

He said the mechanisms will help insure that vulnerable workers don’t exhaust their benefits before their traditional work restarts.

Employment and Social Development Canada is reallocating $10 million from existing departmental resources in 2018-19 to provide income support and training to seasonal workers in P.E.I., New Brunswick and the Gaspé region of Quebec who qualify. Prince Edward Island is in line to receive $1.1 million this year.

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