indicatorAdvice for Albertans during the COVID-19 pandemic

Now that CERB has ended, here are some options to help Albertans make ends meet

By ATB Financial 30 September 2020 7 min read

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit ended on September 27. Over the past few months, the program benefitted 8.5 million Canadians. While some Albertans have had the opportunity to return to work, others are still dealing with unemployment or uncertainty about what happens next.

Understanding the best options and programs for you might seem overwhelming, but we’re here to help. This article will provide some tips on how to gain financial control if you’re struggling to make ends meet, including details about Employment Insurance and other available benefit programs.

Although CERB has ended, the Government of Canada has announced expanded eligibility for Employment Insurance as well as the introduction of new benefit programs, which are detailed below.

COVID-19 Government Benefit Programs

Canadians will be able to access EI benefits more easily, including benefits for those who may not have qualified for EI in the past.
Changes to the revamped EI program include the following:

  • 120 hours of work to qualify (compared to the 420 to 700 hours typically required).
  • Minimum benefit rate of $500 per week (compared to 55% of average weekly earning up to a $573 maximum).
  • At least 26 weeks of regular benefits.

Since EI uses regional unemployment rates to determine access to EI benefits, a new minimum unemployment rate of 13.1 per cent is being used for all regions to lower the qualifying hours.

A big difference between CERB and EI is that EI claimants will be required to self-report on their employment status and apply every two weeks to continue receiving the benefit.

It’s anticipated that the new criteria will allow 400,000 more Canadians to access EI benefits. Remember, EI payments are a taxable benefit.

To learn more about the program or apply, visit the Government of Canada page

For Canadians who may not qualify for EI, such as those who are self-employed, the CRB benefit might be the right program moving forward. The CRB will provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for those whose income has dropped or not returned due to COVID-19. It allows claimants to transition back to work as well. Remember that this is a taxable benefit.

The main qualifications for this benefit include:

  • Need to have employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or 2020.
  • Cannot have quit their job voluntarily.
  • The claimant does need to look for and accept work when it is reasonable to do so. As an added benefit, the claimant can earn income from employment or self-employment while on the benefit, provided they are still meeting the benefit requirements.
  • If your annual income (excluding the CRB) is over $38,000, some or all of the benefit would need to be repaid.

To apply for CRB, visit the Goverment of Canada page

Many people are concerned about how they will support themselves and their families if they are required to self-isolate or are sick with COVID-19.

This benefit provides $500 per week for up to two weeks.

  • Workers cannot claim CRSB and receive other paid sick leave during the same benefit period.
  • Workers would need to miss a minimum of 50% of their scheduled work in the week claimed to qualify.

To apply for CRSB, visit the Government of Canada page

With more people going back to school or work, many Albertans are worried about what they will do if they need to care for a family member or dependent due to closures or COVID-19. This benefit provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for eligible Canadians who have been unable to work at least 50 per cent of their normally scheduled work within a given week. This is also a taxable benefit.

Examples could include:

  • Caring for a child under age 12, a family member with a disability or a dependent due to a closure such as a school, program or daycare, or if they are advised from a medical professional to not attend due to being a high-risk if they contract COVID-19.

To apply for CRCB, visit the Government of Canada page

Visit this page for complete qualification details about the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB).

I’m having trouble paying my monthly bills

If the pandemic has caused you personal financial strain, there are several options to help you gain control and move forward.

Connect with an advisor

Everyone’s situation is unique and if you’re feeling unsure about your next steps, reach out. If you already have a banker, start by booking an appointment or giving them a call to discuss your current situation. A good banker can help you evaluate your options and determine what’s best for you.

If you don't currently have a banker, it is not too late to start making a plan. Reach out to your financial institution to discuss your situation and determine how to move forward.

Create an updated household budget

Like many Albertans, although you may be back at work you might not be earning the same income as before or you may only be working part-time. Take the time to create a new monthly budget based on your current income and lifestyle. This Budget Worksheet is a helpful tool to get you started.

Re-evaluate your debt load

Once you have an understanding of your income situation and have worked on your budget, you may want to consider re-evaluating your current debt load and what you can handle. If you’re carrying too many payments, it may be time to consider offloading some of your assets. Do you own anything you don’t really need at this moment in time? If you have cars, boats or RVs in your possession that you don’t use, consider selling them to decrease your monthly commitments and free up more money ready for day-to-day household expenses.

Get some advice on your debt repayment strategy. You can start by visiting “Steps and strategies for personal debt repayment.” Or sit down with an advisor for a comprehensive review.

Can you downsize your home?

Whether you own or rent your home, downsizing can be an option if you are struggling with rent or mortgage payments. A smaller space often means lower utility costs, less furniture and overall less consumption.

Consider alternative income streams by thinking long-term

Try to think beyond the next couple of months, as it is a possibility that COVID-19 could be with us for a while.

If your current employment is no longer working for your needs, you may want to consider a career change or a different type of job-based on your skills. Is there a career you had in the past that you can revisit? Have you considered turning your passions into a side hustle?

You may want to brush up your resume or update your skills during this time. A quick job search can give you an idea of what type of employment is currently available. Here are a few resourceful pages for those looking for assistance:

  • Employment Services: services to help Albertans explore career and training options and search for jobs.
  • Job Search Resources: regional employment services, job banks, occupation and salary information and other job search resources.
  • Job Planning and Training Programs: programs, tools and resources to help out-of-work Albertans get trained and return to the job market.
  • Retraining - Canada-Alberta Job Grant and other retraining programs and supports.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

These are difficult times that may be taking a toll on you and your family. There are many provincial resources available to support you and your loved ones. If you need immediate assistance, the 211 Alberta phone helpline and online resource of Alberta's community and social services, is always available.

Other available resources include:

  • Income, Housing & Employment Supports: Income support and assistance, including financial, housing and job loss supports for Albertans in need.
  • Assistance for Seniors: Government of Alberta financial assistance and other supports for seniors, caregivers and service providers.
  • Crisis Support: Provincial support for individuals, families and children affected by or at risk of family violence, bullying, abuse, exploitation or homelessness.
  • People with Disabilities: Financial support and assistance, health benefits, service dogs, daily living and housing supports.
  • ALIS: Alberta Learning Information Service is a resource for job seekers. Get help writing your resume or cover letter, learn how to network and prepare for your interview and check out job search resources and labour market information.

If you would like to discuss your financial situation with an advisor, we are always here to listen. Call 1-800-332-8383 or book an appointment at your local branch to speak with an expert.

If you found this article interesting, we’ve got a newsletter you’ll love!

Sign-up today for On the Money by ATB.

You might be interested in

Need help?

Our Client Care team will be happy to assist.