Canadians to benefit from improvements to the Employment Insurance program

The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, today announced several improvements to the Employment Insurance (EI) program to support Canadian workers affected by the current global economic crisis. The improvements will provide more support to workers and the unemployed in two key areas, specifically improvements to the delivery of EI, and the implementation of new EI measures announced in Canada’s Economic Action Plan.

The EI program is one of the key elements of Canada’s social safety net, enabling Canadian workers to better adjust to labour market changes and challenges, and the program acts as an economic stabilizer.

“The Government is aware of the challenges Canadians are facing in these extraordinary economic times, particularly as unemployment rises,” said Minister Finley. “One of our main priorities is to ensure that people receive their EI benefits as quickly as possible, and we have just taken significant additional steps to respond to increased claims, including new funding to support faster claims processing.”

The Government has implemented three improvements to enhance services to EI claimants by processing claims faster, cutting red tape for employers and improving the quality of information received. These include funding of more than $60 million for processing, including hiring additional staff, and the implementation of the extra five weeks of benefits and the increased duration of Work-Sharing agreements, as announced in Canada’s Economic Action Plan. The Government will monitor the effectiveness of these measures and adjust them as needed.

“Our government also recognizes that people who have been laid off may face more challenges finding a new job in these difficult economic times,” added Minister Finley. “Measures in our Economic Action Plan demonstrate our commitment to timely enhancements to the EI program to help Canadians adjust to the changing economy, including extending EI benefits and the duration of Work­Sharing agreements, both measures that are already available.”

Improvements to the EI program in Canada’s Economic Action Plan include:

– temporarily providing nationally the advantages of an extra five weeks of EI benefits previously offered as part of a pilot project in specific regions with high unemployment. These measures also increase the maximum duration of benefits available under the EI program in areas of high unemployment from 45 to 50 weeks. These new measures, with an estimated cost of $1.15 billion, came into effect on March 1, 2009;

– extending the duration of Work-Sharing agreements to a maximum of 52 weeks for the next two years, and increasing access to Work-Sharing agreements through greater flexibility in the qualifying criteria, so more Canadians can continue working while companies experience a temporary slowdown and recover (at an estimated cost of $200 million);

– providing an estimated $500 million over two years to extend income benefits for long-tenured workers participating in longer-term training, and allowing earlier access to EI regular income benefits for eligible individuals investing in their own training using all or part of their severance package; and

– freezing the EI premium rate for 2010 at $1.73 per $100 of earnings-the same rate as 2009 and its lowest level since 1982-which is a projected $4.5 billion stimulus relative to break-even rates.

Through Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the Government is enhancing support to Canadians during the global recession, and is investing in the country’s long­term growth. The Government is investing an unprecedented $8.3 billion in the Canada Skills and Transition Strategy to support workers and their families, including measures for income support, skills and training.
 

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