HUMA briefing binder: Minister Qualtrough – December 10, 2020

Official title: Appearance by the Honourable Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion - Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) - Supplementary Estimates (B) 2020 to 2021 - Thursday, December 10, 2020 | 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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1. Description and costing of ESDC COVID measures (announced) - November 16, 2020

Measure

Additional investment of $1.5B in the WDAs with PTs.

Target population

Canadians in underrepresented groups and those in sectors that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$1.5B

Payments to support provincial and territorial job training efforts Statutory Forecast $1.5B.

Measure

Waive the 1-week waiting period for EI sickness.

The waiting period was waived for EI sickness benefit claimants on quarantine starting on March 15, 2020. This measure was subsequently overtaken by the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Starting on September 27, 2020, the waiting period is waived for all EI sickness benefit claimants for a period of 1 year, or until September 25, 2021.

Target population

EI-eligible individuals who are unable to work due to an injury, illness or quarantine.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

EI measures are not in the Estimates.

Measure

Work-Sharing Program: extending agreement duration from 38 weeks to 76 weeks for employers and workers affected by COVID-19 and other measures including:

This measure provides income support to employees eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) who agree to reduce their normal working hours because of developments beyond the control of their employers.

Since the special measures were introduced, over 3,700 Work-Sharing agreements have been approved, representing over 117,000 workers now supported by WS benefits. The cost of these agreements is over $1.3 Billion.

Target population

Businesses and workers.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$12M

EI measures are not in the Estimates.

Measure

Waive the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI benefits: the requirement to submit a medical certificate was waived for a period of 6 months for all EI claims beginning March 15, 2020 or later.

For EI sickness benefit claims starting on September 27, 2020, the requirement to submit a medical certificate is temporarily waived for a period of 1 year (or until September 25, 2021).

This was put in place to reduce the burden on the healthcare system in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data is not available on the take-up of this measure.

Target population

EI-eligible individuals.

Accessible to all.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

EI measures are not in the Estimates.

Measure

Changes to EI for self-employed fish harvesters and sharespersons: We will allow these workers to establish a fishing benefits claim for the summer season based on their earnings in their current qualifying period or the earnings used to establish a summer fishing claim in 2018 or 2019, whichever is highest. The same approach will apply to the coming winter season.

Fishers also benefit from a $500 minimum benefit rate and can access EI fishing benefits with a minimum of $2,500 in self-employed fishing income.

Target population

EI-eligible individuals.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

EI measures are not in the Estimates.

Measure

Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): Ended.

We provided a taxable benefit of $2,000 every 4 weeks for up to 28 weeks to eligible workers who stopped working or whose work hours were reduced due to COVID-19 or were eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or had exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020.

We are continuing to accept and process retroactive applications until December 2, 2020.

If you continue to need financial support, find out if you are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).

Target population

All workers.

Accessible to all.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$88.5B

Adjustment to CERB Statutory Forecast $28.5B.

Total Statutory Forecast $88.5B.

Measure

Employment Insurance (EI) program

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we made temporary changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) program to better support Canadians looking for work.

As of September 27, you may be eligible for EI if you:

If you are eligible for EI benefits, you will receive a minimum taxable benefit at a rate of $500 per week, or $300 per week for extended parental benefits.

If you are not eligible for EI, you may be eligible for the new benefits:

Target population

EI-eligible individuals.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

EI measures are not in the Estimates.

Measure

Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)

The CRB provides a benefit amount of $500 per week (available in 2-week periods) for up to 26 weeks for those who are not employed or self-employed and who are not eligible for EI, or had their employment/self-employment income reduced by at least 50% due to COVID-19.

Target population

Workers not eligible for EI.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

[Redacted].

Measure

Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB).

The CRSB provides.

$500 per week, for up to 2 weeks (available in 2 1-week periods), effective September 27, 2020 until September 25, 2021 for workers who:

Target population

Workers not currently in receipt of other benefits, including CRB, CRCB, short-term disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, any EI benefits, or Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) benefits.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

[Redacted].

Measure

Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)

The CRCB provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for workers:

Target population

Workers not currently in receipt of other benefits, including CRB, CRSB, short-term disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, any EI benefits, or Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) benefits.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

[Redacted].

Measure

Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program:

Key actions taken:

These measures help to advance efforts to address issues regarding COVID-19 by promoting jobs for Canadians and Permanent Residents, protecting the rights of foreign workers, and ensuring Program users receive transparent and efficient service.

Target population

Temporary Foreign Workers, Migrant worker support organizations and businesses who employ TFWs.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$4M for LMIA refunds.

Payments for the Temporary Foreign Work Program Statutory Forecast $4M.

Measure

Protecting the health and safety of farm workers

We are providing $35 million through the Emergency On-Farm Support Fund to improve health and safety on farms and in employee living quarters to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19. The funding will provide support to farmers for:

Target population

Temporary Foreign Workers.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$23.6M

TFW on Farms Statutory Forecast $15.5M.

Vote 1 $6.9M

EBP $1.2M

Total $23.6M

Measure

Canada Emergency Student Benefit

Financial support was provided to over 708,000 post-secondary students and recent graduates who could not find summer employment due to COVID-19.

Eligible students received $1,250 per month, plus an additional $750 per month if they had dependants or a disability for a maximum of $2,000 per month.

CESB was available from May to August, with applications being accepted retroactively to September 30

Target population

Post-secondary students and recent graduates.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$5.25B

Canada Emergency Student Benefit Statutory Forecast $5.25B.

Measure

Canada Student Loan Program – Repayment Moratorium

The Government of Canada temporarily paused the repayment of Canada Student Loans from March 30, 2020, until September 30, 2020. During this time, payments were not required and interest did not accrue.

Target population

Canada Student Loan borrowers.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$190M

Included as part of the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) Statutory Forecasts.

Measure

Double the Canada Student Grants: to up to $6,000 for full-time students and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020 to 2021.The Canada Student Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependants were also doubled.

No student or spousal contribution expected in 2020 to 2021, in recognition that many students and families will struggle to save for school this year.

Increase the maximum weekly amount of Canada Student Loans from $210 to $350 for the 2020 to 2021 school year.

Taken together, these measures are expected to benefit more than 765,000 students in loan year 2020 to 2021 at an estimated cost of $1.9 billion.

Target population

Students from low- and middle-income households, students with permanent disabilities and students with dependants.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$1.9B

Included as part of the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) Statutory Forecasts.

Measure

Supports for Student Learning Program

Target population

Students and youth.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$15M

Included as part of the $459M Students and Youth Statutory Forecast below.

Measure

Creating new jobs and opportunities for youth

We are creating up to 116,000 jobs, placements, and other training opportunities to help students find employment and develop valuable skills this summer and over the coming months.

The Strategy is delivered by ESDC and 10 other federal departments and agencies, and aims to help youth develop the skills and gain the experience they need to successfully transition into the labour market

Student Work Placement Program

Target population

Students and youth.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$459M

Adjustment to Students and Youth Statutory Forecast ($269M).

Total Statutory Forecast $459M.

Measure

Changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program:

On June 25, an additional $61.7M in funding was announced for CSJ 2020 to support the creation of 10,000 additional jobs, expanding the CSJ 2020 work placement target from 70,000 to 80,000 jobs.

This is in addition to temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program introduced in April 2020, to allow employers to:

Target population

Youth.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$61.7M

Included as part of the $459M Students and Youth Statutory Forecast above.

Measure

Extension of lay-off periods: We have extended time periods for temporary layoffs by up to 6 months in the Canada Labour Standards Regulations to allow employers more time to recall laid-off employees. The temporary changes will help protect the jobs of federally regulated private-sector employees and support employers facing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic.

Target population

All Canadians.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

N/A

Measure

Delivering Essential Services to those in need: Investment of $350 million to support vulnerable Canadians through charities and non-profit organizations that deliver essential services to those in need.

Target population

Vulnerable Canadians.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$350M

Emergency Community Support Fund Statutory Forecast $350M.

Measure

Increasing the Canada Child Benefit (CCB): $300 per child through the CCB for families currently receiving the CCB. This will mean approximately $550 on average per family.

This benefit was delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment in May.

Target population

Families.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

N/A

Measure

Supporting people experiencing homelessness: support to people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak by providing $157.5 million through Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy at the onset of the pandemic.

An additional investment of $236.7 million through Reaching Home was announced on September 21, 2020 to provide continued support to the homeless-serving sector in their efforts to reduce transmission and impacts of COVID-19 throughout the winter, as well as to support the provision of permanent housing solutions for those experiencing homelessness and prevent further inflows into homelessness.

Target population

Individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

Funding Decisions:

$158M

$237M

$15M (2019 to 2020).

Total $410M.

Canadians Experiencing Homelessness.

Statutory Forecast $237M.

Reaching Home Program Statutory Forecast $158M.

$15M of non-statutory Grants and Contributions funding was used to make payments in 2019 to 2020. Not in Supplementary Estimates B.

Measure

Helping address urgent housing needs of vulnerable individuals (CMHC)

We are introducing the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) to help address urgent housing needs of vulnerable Canadians by rapidly creating new affordable housing. This $1 billion initiative will cover the construction of modular housing, as well as the acquisition of land, and the conversion of existing buildings to affordable housing.

It is expected to enable the rapid creation of up to 3,000 new affordable housing units across the country and will help stimulate the economy.

Target population

Vulnerable Canadians.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

N/A

Measure

One-time payment for Seniors:

The Government provided a 1-time tax-free payment of $300 for seniors eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, with an additional tax-free payment of $200 for seniors eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). This measure provided a total of $500 to low-income seniors who receive both the OAS pension and the GIS. Allowance recipients also received $500. This $2.5 billion investment in financial support helped Canadian seniors cover increased costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial payments were issued during the week of July 6. Individuals who were eligible to receive the OAS pension or the GIS in June 2020 were eligible for this payment and did not need to apply.

After the initial payments were issued, there were a number of seniors who were found to be eligible for an OAS pension retroactively. As a result, a second series of 1-time payments was issued during the week of September 28.

Target population

Seniors.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$2.5B

Additional Support for Canadian Seniors Statutory Forecast $2.5B.

Measure

One Time Payment to Persons with Disabilities: We are providing a 1-time-, tax-free, non-reportable payment of up to $600 in recognition of the extraordinary expenses incurred by persons with disabilities during the pandemic. This will help Canadians with disabilities who are recipients of any of the following programs or benefits:

Individuals have the opportunity to apply for the applied for the Disability Tax Credit by December 31, 2020 and if eligible can receive the 1 time payment. Seniors with disabilities who received the one-time seniors payment announced on May 12, 2020 may also be eligible for the 1-time payment to persons with disabilities. In cases where they are eligible for both payments, individuals would receive a total amount of $600 as follows:

Target population

People with disabilities.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$849M

One-time payment for Persons with Disabilities Statutory Forecast $849M.

Measure

Providing resources to improve workplace accessibility and access to jobs: A new investment of $15 million in 2020 to 2021 will provide community organizations with resources to improve workplace accessibility and access to jobs in response to COVID-19, including by helping employers set up accessible and effective work-from-home arrangements. This support will also cover expanding accessible online training opportunities and helping connect Canadians with disabilities working from home with employers.

Target population

Persons with disabilities.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$15M

Payments to Support Persons with Disabilities Statutory Forecast $15M.

Measure

Supporting organizations that provide essential services to seniors: We are contributing $9 million through United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors. These services could include the delivery of groceries, medications, or other needed items, or personal outreach to assess individuals' needs and connect them to community supports.

Target population

Seniors.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$9M

Not in Supplementary Estimates B.

Paid in 2019 to 2020.

Measure

New flexibilities under the New Horizons for Seniors Program: We are expanding the New Horizons for Seniors Program with an additional investment of $20 million to support organizations that offer community-based projects that reduce isolation, improve the quality of life of seniors, and help them maintain a social support network.

Target population

Seniors.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

$20M

New Horizons for Seniors Statutory Forecast $20M.

Measure

Extending GIS and Allowance payments: Temporarily extending GIS and Allowance payments if seniors’ 2019 income information has not been received. This will ensure that the most vulnerable seniors continue to receive their benefits when they need them the most. Seniors are encouraged to submit their 2019 income information as soon as possible in order to avoid an interruption in benefit payments.

Target population

Seniors.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

N/A

Measure

COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group: The Government of Canada established the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, comprised of experts in disability inclusion, to provide advice on: the lived experiences of persons with disabilities during this crisis; along with disability-specific issues; challenges and systemic gaps; and strategies, measures and steps to be taken in response, in keeping with a “Nothing Without Us” approach.

Target population

Persons with disabilities.

Funding decision / Supplementary Estimates B

N/A

2. 2020 Fall Economic Statement

Issue

Fall Economic Statement – ESDC measures

Suggested Response

Skills and Training

Youth

Students

Homelessness

Families and Children

Early Learning and Child Care

Early Childhood Educator Workforce

Service to Canadians

Integrity

Background

Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET) program

Foreign Credential Recognition Program (FCRP)

Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities

Women’s Employment Readiness Canada

Canada Summer Jobs/Youth Employment and Skills Strategy

Post-Secondary Education

Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy

Canada Child Benefit

Early Learning and Childcare

Integrity

Prepared by

Name: Marebame Longe

Title: Special Advisor, Strategic and Service Policy Branch (SSPB)

Key contact

Name: Colin Spencer James

Title: Director General, Strategic and Horizontal Policy, SSPB

Phone number: 613-240-0691

Approved by

Name: Catherine Adam

Title: Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Service Policy Branch

Phone number: 613-866-6843

Date

Date approved in SADMO: December 4, 2020

3. Parliamentary background and analysis

Official title: Appearance by the Honourable Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion - Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) Supplementary Estimates (B) 2020 to 2021 - Thursday, December 10, 2020 | 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

1. Background

On November 4, 2020, you testified before HUMA on the Main Estimates 2020 to 2021. The Committee expressed an interest in inviting you to discuss the subject matter of Supplementary Estimates 2020 to 2021 (B) before the House rises on December 11. On December 10, you will appear for 1 hour and departmental senior officials will also attend. They will remain available to the committee for an additional hour of questioning.

As you are aware, the House of Commons completed the financial procedures related to the Main Estimates and the Supplementary Estimates through the introduction of 2 appropriation bills authorizing the necessary funds on the evening of Monday, December 7.

The purpose of the meeting is to provide an opportunity to Committee Members to continue the discussion on the planned government spending included in the Supplementary Estimates (B). It is also an opportunity to ask further details on the Fiscal and Economic Statement announced on November 30 for items related to your mandate.

The Committee also invited your colleague, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to appear on December 8 on Supplementary Estimates.

2. Committee Proceedings

HUMA is composed of 12 MPs. In the current minority Parliament, the Government does not hold the majority at HUMA. The newly elected Chair is Liberal MP Sean Casey and 2 Vice-Chairs CPC MP Peter Kent and BQ MP Louise Chabot. Mr. Kent and Ms. Chabot are Employment Critics.

Other members are:

HUMA has agreed that questioning of witnesses would be allocated as follows:

The first round of questioning:

For the second and subsequent rounds of questioning:

3. Parliamentary and media analysis

In addition to questions specific to items included in the Supplementary Estimates documents, you may receive questions from opposition party members related to the following:

Canadians with disabilities

ESDC has played a significant role in developing innovative measures to help Canadians financially through the pandemic. In general, these measures received support from opposition parties. At the November 4 meeting, BQ Member Louise Chabot asked you if the Government is planning to provide additional help to Canadians with disabilities. You answered that a decision had not been made but that discussions were ongoing. In light of the Economic and Fiscal Statement announced on November 30 and in recognition to the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, Ms. Chabot might be interested in asking additional questions and whether the Government will commit to added measures for vulnerable Canadians including those living with disabilities in the anticipated 2021 federal budget. NDP Member Leah Gazan may also used the opportunity to ask you about committing to a guaranteed basic income as a means to help vulnerable Canadians out of poverty.

Reports - Parliamentary Budget Officer

The Parliamentary Budget Officer, Yves Giroux, recently released reports on the Supplementary Estimates, the Main Estimates and an update to a July 24 report on Government’s policy of allowing employees to use pay code 699 paid leave for other reasons. Mr. Giroux expressed concern that the information needed to track the Government’s COVID-19 relief spending is lacking. At OGGO, CPC Members continued to express concern over the number of public servants still using leave code 699 for work limitations when the government has been clear that all public servants should have remote access. ESDC is 1 of the Departments with the highest number of hours used under leave code 699. The PBO also commented on the low morale he has observed in the public service, particularly in the areas that are responding directly to the pandemic. Of note, when asked for his opinion, the PBO offered observations on the fact that it was unusual for a large program like the CSSG not to be approved through a Treasury Board submission. Questions related to his reports could be raised at the December 10 hearing.

Fiscal and Economic Update: Skills and Training

The Fiscal and Economic Update included a commitment to invest in Creating Opportunities for Youth, acknowledging that young people continue to suffer disproportionate economic among other impacts due to COVID-19. You may be asked to provide more details on what the government proposes to build on the employment, job skills development and educational supports provided to youth and students over the summer.

Fiscal and Economic Update: Students

During the pandemic, the Government made a number of announcements to help students, including the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) and the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG), which were designed to provide assistance to students affected by the COVID-19 crisis. On November 30, the Government proposed to reduce student debt by eliminating interest on the federal portion of the Canada student loan and Canada apprentice loan for 2021 to 2022. The NDP might argue that more measures needs to be done for students struggling to find employment in this pandemic and suggest that the next federal budget in 2021 includes a wealth tax.

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