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Federal government sets minimum unemployment rate for EI

Carla Qualtrough, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.
Carla Qualtrough, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.

The federal government announced Monday it is preparing to transition as many out-of-work Canadians as possible back to the Employment Insurance (EI) system at the end of month.

Carla Qualtrough, federal minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, stated in a news release that as of Aug. 9 a minimum unemployment rate of 13.1 per cent will be applied temporarily for all EI economic regions across Canada.

The temporary measure is meant to establish minimum entry requirements for EI eligibility across the country for Canadians to access the income support they currently need, or might need later, as the county continues to deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our government has taken action to support Canadians and businesses facing financial hardship,” Qualtrough said in the release.

“As we carefully and gradually restart parts of our economy, we recognize that many Canadian workers continue to face challenges. 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.”

Since the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was launched after COVID-19 hit, it has been an important income support for over 8.5 million Canadians and their families, who have had to stop working due to the pandemic, the release states.

As the country continues to gradually restart the economy, more than 1.6 million Canadians have been able to return to work. Not all sectors, however, are re-opening at the same pace.

In taking this action, the federal government says it is recognizing that the pandemic continues to make labour market conditions uncertain and unpredictable across the country.

When individuals begin transitioning off of the CERB back to EI regular benefits at the end of the month, 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 release said it is the first in a series of steps to be announced in the coming weeks that will help eligible Canadians transition from emergency income measures back into the EI system and into the labour force.

Normally, a claimant can qualify to receive EI regular benefits from 14 weeks up to a maximum of 45 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate in the region where they reside at the time of filing their claim and the amount of insurable hours accumulated in the last 52 weeks or since their last claim, whichever is shorter.

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