North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney said the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is leaving vulnerable people behind.
If you’re out of work because of COVID-19, the CERB can provide you with $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.
But you’re not eligible if you are receiving employment insurance, applied for EI before March 15th, are working part-time, or if you are a post-secondary student.
Earlier this week, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh pointed out that a direct payment to everyone across the country would make sure that no one falls through the cracks.
Blaney, who is an NDP MP, said constituents have come to her with their concerns.
“The reality is that people in the riding are calling us and letting us know that the CERB is not meeting their needs,” she said. “Some examples are seniors who are on a fixed income, who are seeing the costs of delivery services, for medication, for food, for things that they need increasing. but they have no increase to their very fixed and limited income.”
She also pointed to students who had a summer job cancelled because of the pandemic, and people who have more than one job and had lost one of them due to COVID-19, and are now only working 10 to 15 hours a week.
“The CERB is leaving out about a third of the population that should be able to access it so that is a huge concern to us,” she said.
She said the federal NDP is suggesting a universal, streamlined model.
“We could spend a lot of time figuring out how to make it work for everybody, or we could have a universal model which basically means everybody would get a cheque. If you don’t need that cheque, you better put it away because during tax time next year you would have to pay that money back,” Blaney said.
“That way, instead of spending a lot of time trying to identify who fits and who doesn’t, it gives us an opportunity to get the action done, which is, ‘Let’s make sure people are not losing their housing, not being able to feed their family during this crisis that is so spectacularly different than anything we’ve ever experienced in our lifetime.’”
Closer to home, Blaney said British Columbia communities that rely heavily on the forestry industry took another hit with the arrival of the pandemic.
Blaney said while debating and negotiating the CERB legislation, to do this well, they needed to take a view from the lens of rural and remote communities.
“I explained that we had gone through a strike for a long period of time, that it had huge impacts on our communities… and if (federal finance minister Bill Morneau) didn’t look through those lenses, those communities would not be served.”