How much new COVID-19 benefits and extending CERB could cost

Jessy Bains
·2-min read

Canadians are still waiting to apply for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) — applications are open for the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) — but they’re also waiting for the federal government to put a price tag on the new COVID-19 benefits.

The Parliamentary Budget Bureau (PBO) has come up with estimates, as well as the cost of extending CERB.

CRB pays $500 a week for up to 26 weeks, to people who don’t qualify for Employment Insurance (EI). Ottawa’s spending watchdog estimates the total net cost will be $12.85 billion in 2020-2021 and $5.09 billion in 2021-2022.

While CRB is expected to be the costliest of the new programs, the PBO says the estimate isn’t set in stone.

“This estimate is highly sensitive to future labour market conditions and Canada’s economy, as well as the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, since the [Labour Force Survey] does not collect information on self-employed earnings, several assumptions had to be made in order to estimate them,” it said in a report.

“There is also significant uncertainty regarding the behavioural response of workers. There is additional uncertainty surrounding how the proposed measure will be administered (specifically, the extent and intensity of compliance monitoring activities).”

CRCB pays $500 a week for up to 26 weeks to people who are forced into a caretaker role because of COVID-19. The PBO estimates it will cost $1.19 billion in 2020-21 and $214 million in 2021-22.

CRSB pays $500 a week for up to two weeks for people who are sick from COVID-19 or have to self-isolate. The PBO estimates it will cost $599 million in 2020-2021 and $550 million in 2021-2022.

The total combined cost for the three new programs would be $14.64 billion in 2020-21 and $5.85 billion in 2021-2022.

Although CERB has ended, it was extended for four weeks. The PBO estimates the cost for doing so is $5.36 billion, bringing the total estimated program cost to $76.7 billion.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

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