NDP Leader Alison Coffin says there are still too many gaps in emergency relief programs, as provincial and federal governments grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coffin is expressing concerns as relief programs begin to roll out. Many precarious workers, such as post-secondary students and artists and musicians who rely on a summer performance season, fear they will be excluded from qualifying for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
Coffin says the CERB criteria stipulate that you had to be working, and your job stopped for at least 14 days due to COVID-19.
“What will be done to help those with jobs that haven’t begun yet, and in the case of students, the summer employment market? Many students haven’t even started their expected contracts or work terms. They will not be eligible for this relief,” said Coffin.
Further, if you are self-employed, it appears you can only qualify for CERB if you stopped work completely as a result of COVID-19.
“If you are still getting money from self-employment or gig work, even though it's probably a lot less than before, you are out of luck. What will these people do?” Coffin asked.
“These are emergency relief programs. It's crucial that they be inclusive and accessible to the people who desperately need them,” said Coffin.
Coffin says there are about 30,000 post-secondary students in Newfoundland and Labrador. She says the federal government is assuming post-secondary students can get by with savings or parental support, which is not the case for many students.
“If you are a post-secondary student who wasn't working during the term but were planning to get a summer job to help with next year's tuition, the assumption is that either your parents can look after you this summer, or you have money left over from a loan or grant, or perhaps some savings, that will tide you over the summer until you can apply for more loans and grants for the fall,” said Coffin. “That's a lot of assumptions.”
“The NDP is working as part of the Joint Public Health Response Committee to help find provincial solutions, and we continue to urge the federal government, and urge our provincial government to call on their federal counterparts, to solve this problem,” Coffin said.
Coffin says a lot of the uncertainty, anxiety, and administrative costs associated with CERB and the likely ‘patches’ needed to make it fair and equitable could have been avoided with a universal benefit program.
“Precarious, seasonal, and gig workers are going to fall through the cracks,” said Coffin. “We look forward to hopefully hearing solutions from the federal government very soon. Although they are promising changes to CERB, making these groups wait is simply unfair.”
For further information, contact Zaren Healey White, Director of Communications, NDP Caucus at 729-2137 (o), 693-9172 (c), or firstname.lastname@example.org