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Small businesses worry workers could abuse CERB, recommend changes

Last Updated Jun 15, 2020 at 3:32 pm EDT

FILE - The number of small businesses that have reopened is up to 44 per cent from 38 two weeks ago, according to a new CFIB survey. (NEWS 1130 photo)
Summary

CFIB members are concerned the program encourages people not to look for work


Organization wants increase in how much income people on CERB can make while remaining eligible.


CFIB supports a proposed change to the CERB that would end payments should an employee be offered work


VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) — While the federal government plans to extend the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, small businesses argue it needs to be adjusted to prevent abuse.

Muriel Protzer, with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said members are concerned the program encourages people not to look for work.

Given part-timers can, in many cases, make more on CERB than they were before the program’s creation, she added it can be a disincentive to work.

Protzer argues applicants should have to prove they are looking for employment.

“CFIB believes this would best help us transition to the new normal that we will be approaching eventually, and to ensure these policies that the federal government has in place really do support and encourage people to find employment again because we’re going to need that to help transition to the new normal.”

Another change Protzer would like to see would be an increase in how much income people on CERB can make while remaining eligible.

Currently, applicants can work and earn up to $1,000 a month and still receive the benefit.

A majority of small businesses in B.C. are open either fully or partially at this point, which Protzer said is encouraging.

But according to a CFIB survey, half of those had to lay off staff during the pandemic.

And with many operating only at partial capacity, she said not all employees can return to their jobs given current restrictions, such as spacing.

She said CFIB was pleased to see the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program extended to August, which helps employers rehire employees.

The organization also supports a proposed change to the CERB that would end payments should an employee be offered an opportunity to return to work, but refuses.

“So that is a really great stop hold in place to ensure that there is that incentive for that employee to come back to their job,” she said.

“That’s not to say business owners are ready, or wanting even to tattle on employees who don’t feel safe coming back to work or might have other complications that leave them apprehensive about returning to work.”

Strong communication is needed between the employee and employer, she added.

“At the end of the day here, we’re all very nervous, we’re all very scared what could happen if there is a second wave and the amount of stress is insurmountable at the moment.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday the federal government is looking to extend the CERB for people who are still unable to return to work.

Details on the possible extension are set to be revealed later this week.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh warned Monday that, without a plan to extend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, his party won’t back a massive spending proposal due in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

CERB recipients are set to see their $2,000-a-month benefit dry up in the next few weeks.