CERB Update

Brad WalchukUncategorized

We’d like to send an important update to our previous email about your potential eligibility for the CERB. At first, it appeared that there would be some internal checks, much like EI, where if you didn’t meet criteria that was, at best, unclear to begin with, you’d be denied. It now seems like a) almost everyone is being approved but despite this, b) many TAs shouldn’t actually qualify. Unfortunately, these programs are being rolled out in real time and limited parameters are being provided. We should also note that the criteria of “seasonal worker” is being applied in an especially narrow way.

CUPE National has provided some helpful updates on eligibility criteria through their Canada Emergency Response Benefit Q & A, noting that “Job loss or reduction of work hours must be related to COVID-19 and must have happened on or after March 15. Coverage also extends to workers who have received at least one week of EI benefits after December 29, 2019. This means students who are unable to find a summer job, seasonal workers who have not received EI benefits after December 29, 2019, and workers who were already unemployed and without EI benefits are not eligible for the CERB.” Thus, unfortunately, it would appear as though many of our members – particularly TAs and RAs in-lieu who already did not have spring/summer contracts pre-COVID – still are not eligible for the CERB. At this point, we are trying to determine the consequences of applying for and receiving the CERB when you do not, in fact, meet the eligibility criteria. For now, our recommendation to those who already applied for the CERB but are likely to be counted as ineligible per the above criteria is to avoid spending any CERB funds received, in case the federal government chooses to verify eligibility at a later date and recoup any funds dispensed to those who were not, in fact, eligible. We will continue to provide you with updates on this matter as we receive them.

To reiterate an earlier disclaimer: We are in no position to advocate or negotiate on your behalf in any way as it relates to the CERB and other COVID-19 governmental benefits. The distribution of any government benefit typically depends on highly individual information to which your Union is not privy, meaning that whether or not you qualify for the CERB will likely depend on several additional factors unrelated to your employment as a TA or RA in-lieu.

On a related note, the Canadian Labour Congress will be holding a live webinar on the CERB and EI in the context of COVID-19 TODAY at 1:00 PM EST. We would strongly encourage our members to attend, particularly if you are still wondering about your potential eligibility for emergency benefits in the coming months.

If you have any additional questions regarding the CERB, or about your employment in the context of COVID-19 more generally, please visit our COVID-19 Resources and Information Page. McMaster University has also been providing regular updates, which can be found here. Should you have further questions not yet addressed in these resources and prior communications, please don’t hesitate to contact us at staff@cupe3906.org or president@cupe3906.org. Responses may be delayed due to the high volume of emails we are receiving on a daily basis, and the need to prioritize particularly urgent situations. We are a small team of individuals servicing thousands of members, so your patience is much appreciated.