August 12, 2020

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New data show more than 246,000 Manitobans applied for CERB

Premier 'clearly underestimated' how many in province needed emergency benefit: economist

More than a third of Manitoba's workforce registered for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, new federal data show.

As of June 28, 246,440 Manitobans have signed up for CERB during the pandemic — significantly higher than the 50,000 Premier Brian Pallister indicated two weeks ago.

"Fifty-thousand was an estimate based on initial information from the federal government, and we rely on them to provide updated numbers as CERB is a federal program, not provincial," a spokesperson for the premier said Tuesday.

The actual CERB uptake for Manitoba is closer to that of the rest of the country.

The national CERB uptake as of June 28 is 8.16 million, according to the federal government. If Manitoba had a similar per capita uptake, it would have 297,179 people who, at one point, collected the CERB.

"These figures show that Pallister clearly underestimated how many Manitobans from all age groups need help and have applied for CERB," said economist Lynne Fernandez.

Out of a Manitoba workforce of 653,000, 37 per cent have registered for CERB, said Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, who wasn't surprised nearly a quarter of a million people in the province signed up for the CERB.

"When you look at how many business were impacted that also tells a story," he said. "We know 31 per cent of businesses were forced to close at some point or another," said Davidson. "This is a pretty high number – it speaks to how substantially COVID-19 impacted the Manitoba economy," he said.

"These figures show that Pallister clearly underestimated how many Manitobans from all age groups need help and have applied for CERB." — Economist Lynne Fernandez

CERB provides $2,000 a month for up to four months for those who earned a minimum of $5,000 in the last 12 months and stopped working because of COVID-19. They can't make more than $1,000 within the four-week benefit period of a CERB claim.

In June, Pallister said 50,000 Manitobans are collecting federal emergency benefits and announced a plan to get as many as possible off the CERB or the Canada Emergency Student Benefit and on the job to meet the growing demand for employees as the province's economy recovers. The Manitoba Job Restart Program provides direct payments to a maximum of $2,000 for those who stop collecting the federal benefits and get to work.

In June, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said 50,000 Manitobans are collecting federal emergency benefits.


In June, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said 50,000 Manitobans are collecting federal emergency benefits.

So far, more than 1,500 Manitobans have applied for the program, Pallister's spokesperson said Tuesday.

"We want to get as many Manitobans back to work as we restart our economy and plan for a strong economic recovery and job creation," she said in an email.

Davidson doesn't see the CERB as an impediment to Manitoba's economic recovery while there's still uncertainty.

"I think the reality right now is a lot of employers trying to bring back as many employees as they can but there’s still nervousness," he said. "You also hear a lot of of jobs are available right now for employees," said Davidson, who wanted to know how many Manitobans are collecting the CERB right now. "It can be a challenge," he said.

Province updates figures for COVID-19 economic recovery programs

Manitoba Gap Protection Plan — The province has paid out more than $44 million to 7,300 applicants.

Manitoba Gap Protection Plan — The province has paid out more than $44 million to 7,300 applicants.

Summer Student Recovery Jobs Program — More than 1,800 applications received from employers for more than 4,000 positions for $20 million in supports.

Manitoba Risk Recognition Program — Applications are still being verified. Payments will be determined and issued once the final number of applicants is confirmed.

Seniors Economic Recovery Credit — More than 226,000 Manitobans age 65 and older have received the $200 tax-free credit.

Source: Province of Manitoba

"And CERB is not going to be there forever," Davidson said. "There is going to be a need to come back to work," he said. "Employers are trying to do everything they can to do that smoothly."

The largest segment of Manitobans on CERB is those aged 25-34 at 24.9 per cent, and young people under 25 make up 20.7 per cent. And that's not including the number of young Manitobans who applied for the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit.

"This confirms StatsCan’s initial analysis showing how hard this crisis is hitting the young — keeping in mind that they will make up a smaller portion of the labour force than the over-25s," said Fernandez, who holds the Errol Black Chair in labour issues at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives — Manitoba. The May labour force survey had Manitoba’s youth unemployment rate pegged at 24.6 per cent, she said.

"This is a real concern and the CERB benefit is crucial to keeping them afloat," the economist said. "Many of the industries younger people work in — service, tourism, et cetera — are still shut down or working at a reduced capacity, so it isn’t clear what jobs (Pallister) thinks they should take," she said.

"The same is true for other lower-wage earners who work in the hospitality sector, or tourism: those jobs may be coming back, but we’re nowhere near where we were, say, this time last year," said Fernandez. "Some restaurants have closed... Many are afraid to go back to work for fear of contracting COVID or bringing it home to family members."

Another five per cent of Manitoba CERB recipients are seniors, who would have to have earned over $5,000 in 2019.

"As a percentage, seniors make up a smaller group but you’d expect that, because fewer seniors work and they have access to OAS (Old Age Security) and CPP (Canada Pension Plan) and GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement).

Like all Manitobans 65 and older, they would also have received a $200 Seniors Economic Recovery Credit announced by the premier in May, saying seniors are owed a "debt of gratitude" for helping to build Manitoba.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

Read full biography


Updated on Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 11:03 PM CDT: Fixes typos

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