How fortunate is it that I am still allowed to go to work during this pandemic? I am deemed an ‘essential employee’ – laughs – in this time of crisis, though I am nothing more than a barista at my local drive-thru only coffee shop. Fortunately, my risk of exposure to COVID-19 is very low. I get to come to work and see my friends, talk with my favorite customers, share a cup of joe with those who need it most, and fill my day with smiles, laughs and, most importantly, caffeine.
If I am so fortunate, though, why do I feel so cheated by the CERB?
The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB, is absolutely necessary during COVID-19. $2000 every four weeks will help Canadians pay for the necessities of life and will lead to a faster economic recovery once the pandemic settles down. The importance of this plan cannot be understated, and the speed and efficiency that the CERB has been implemented is remarkable. However, for essential employees who continue to put themselves in harm’s way during this pandemic, the lack of benefits received is truly unfortunate.
Take grocery store workers. The tireless work of these employees has been a sight to behold since the pandemic started, and how important they are to the community has been exposed in full. Heaps of praise for their hard work has been rightfully given, but the fact remains that they are overworked and overexposed to COVID-19. They are in desperate need of more help, as ads plastered over social media social-media saying “Join Our Team” indicate, but ask yourself this: would you really want to work for $2500 a month while risking serious exposure to a terrible disease when you could stay home and earn $2000 a month? Countless Canadians are currently at home, able to work, but the risk of exposure to COVID-19 can hardly justify earning an extra $500 a month. There may be those who disagree, and that is entirely their judgement call to make, but I know personally that such an offer would not entice me towards applying.
These are essential employees, among countless others, who are facing the pandemic head-on and providing the best services they can at the time when we need them the most. And while praise and thanks are absolutely necessary (and thankfully being given out by millions of gracious Canadians), these people deserve more.
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has proposed that the eligibility criteria be dropped for those applying to the CERB so that everyone who needs help will get access to the CERB (Campbell, 2020). His proposal included recently-graduated students, previously unemployed Canadians and people who earned less than the $5000 application minimum over the previous 12 months (Campbell, 2020). While I agree with all these above, I also believe that the CERB should be available to those who are still working. I think it is safe to say that those who are putting themselves on the frontlines of this pandemic everyday deserve more than just heartfelt thanks from Canadians; they deserve financial support during this time. Allowing a universal application for the CERB would provide every Canadian a hand up in this trying time while providing a financial incentive for those of us who are fortunate enough to continue being employed. Every Canadian would stay financially afloat, and those who can work would be incentivized to do so. While unquestionably costly to the Canadian government, it is a cost that would keep the economy going, help to build a stronger foundation for the post-COVID recovery and, most importantly, would help those who deserve it the most.
Campbell, C. (April 11, 2020). Burnaby’s Jagmeet Singh demands Trudeau ‘scrap’ CERB criteria. Burnabynow. https://www.burnabynow.com/news/burnaby-s-jagmeet-singh-demands-trudeau-scrap-cerb-criteria-1.24116538