On April 15th 2020, the CERB rules were further modified to cover more workers by changing the eligibility criteria:
- Allow people to earn up to $1000 per month while collecting the CERB.
- Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19.
- Extend the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.
By allowing people to earn $1000 per month while collecting the CERB, the Federal Government has acknowledged that $2000 in Regina and $2000 in Toronto do not have the same value. The average rent for a one bedroom apartment in Toronto in February 2020 was $2315. The average cost of living in Toronto minus the astronomical rent is approximately $1295. We need to keep in mind the changing nature of the economy and the creeping pervasiveness of the so-called ‘gig-economy’ where individuals are most likely to be employed as independent contractors as opposed to being treated as full time employees.
People falling through the cracks?
While CERB has been expanded, there are still vulnerable Canadians falling through the cracks who may not be covered. As the benefits continue to roll out, more people continue to find out how they have been left in the lurch. A particularly egregious case was reported by the CBC on April 17, 2020 of expecting mothers who do not yet qualify for maternity and parental benefits; had applied for EI previously and were trying to switch to CERB.
It is understandable that since the government has been rolling out the responses and benefits urgently, there will be classes of people who will be left out. However, it is also imperative that when such lapses come to light, the government resolve them swiftly.
The case for UBI?
The universal basic income pilot program initiated by the Wynne government in 2017, was quickly on the chopping block under the Doug Ford government and cancelled by 2018. Early reports had suggested it was successful by the metrics: . Finland had reported mixed success with their experiments with UBI as well. Spain, spurned by being the 3rd worst affected nation to potentially start giving all its citizens, a monthly payment meant to cover basic expenses. The Trudeau government has rejected calls for making CERB universal as of now, but how the economy recovers and whether CERB will need to be continued beyond September, remains to be seen.
Disclaimer: Please note that this post is not meant to be legal advice. Please contact a lawyer or legal professional for advice.
 One in 10 Toronto workers is now a gig economy worker, StatCan says, December 2019, https://www.thestar.com/business/tech_news/2019/12/16/one-in-10-toronto-workers-is-now-a-gig-economy-worker-statcan-says.html
 As of 23rd April 2020,