Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux waits to appear before the Commons Finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. The parliamentary budget officer estimates in a new report that it will cost $17.9 billion to provide eight extra weeks of payments through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Eight more weeks of CERB to cost $17.9 billion, budget officer says

The CERB, now budgeted at $60 billion, has paid out $43.51 billion to 8.41 million people

The parliamentary budget officer estimates in a new report that it will cost the federal government $17.9 billion to provide eight extra weeks of payments through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

The report this morning from budget officer Yves Giroux says that would bring the total cost of the benefit program for people who’ve lost all or nearly all their work to the COVID-19 pandemic to $71.3 billion.

The CERB, now budgeted at $60 billion, has paid out $43.51 billion to 8.41 million people as of June 4 as demand surges past federal expectations.

READ MORE: CERB to be extended by eight weeks amid gradual post-COVID reopening

With the first cohort of CERB applicants set to hit the 16-week limit on the payments early next month, the Liberals have promised to increase the limit to 24 weeks to provide help through the summer for those who need it.

Giroux’s report says the additional cost to the program depends heavily on the outlook for the economy and jobs, as well as the course of the pandemic.

The report says further uncertainty over the final cost of the program rests on the actual takeup of the separate federal wage-subsidy program, which the Liberals plan to retool.

A report this morning from a group of experts convened by the C.D. Howe Institute is urging the Liberals to take the extra time bought by extending the CERB to retool the program itself and put in a program to help recipients retrain for other or better jobs.

READ MORE: CERB payments docked to account for April advance

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough and Tiff Macklem, the governor of the Bank of Canada, separately on Monday warned that not everyone will have a job to go back to as restrictions ease and businesses reopen. Some companies may not survive the recession the pandemic has caused, Macklem said.

It’s why the C.D. Howe paper also calls for an update to the employment insurance system to handle a possible surge in applicants come September, and for clearer language around a newly imposed requirement on CERB recipients to look or take work when it is “reasonable to do so.”

When the Liberals unveiled the wage subsidy and CERB, it was the subsidy program that carried the heftier price tag of over $70 billion. The government styled it the largest social support program in the country’s history.

But fewer companies than envisioned have used the subsidy, which now is budgeted to cost $45 billion. As of June 15, the government had approved $13.28 billion in payroll help to 223,918 companies.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been working on changes to the program’s eligibility rules to improve takeup.

The Liberals’ latest estimated cost of the total package of pandemic-related aid was about $153.7 billion, but Giroux’s running tally now estimates the cost at $169.2 billion.

Fuelling demand for the CERB has been a steep drop in employment, with three million job losses in March and April as non-essential businesses were ordered closed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

With the possibility of more temporary layoffs becoming permanent, the Liberals on Monday extended the recall period for furloughed workers. In a statement, Labour Minister Filomena Tassi said the decision was due to “a great deal of uncertainty” companies have about when they can bring back employees.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Volunteers sought to remove weeds from Port Renfrew’s Parkinson Road

Road has no sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk on pavement

Falling oak tree causes minor damage to Langford home

Tree damages garden and gutters of home on Lindsay Place

Residents to start moving into first of 100 new affordable homes in Langford

Construction underway on second phase of affordable Indigenous housing project in Langford

New space secured for Sooke homeless

The shelter will be ready for residents on July 20

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Ex-Okanagan Mountie forfeits 20 days’ pay after sexual misconduct review

A former Vernon RCMP constable made sexual comments, grabbed genitals of male officer in two incidents 10 years ago

Man found dead on Okanagan trail identified as Hollywood actor

GoFundMe campaign launched for man found dead at summit of Spion Kop

3 people dead in Prince George motel fire

Fire personnel believe the blaze was suspicious although investigation in early stages

B.C. sets terms to review police, mental health, race relations

MLAs to recommend Police Act changes by May 2021

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Almost 99% less land in B.C. burned this year compared to 2018

2018 was the worst year on record for wildfires

Most Read