CERB going to people who may not be eligible, union worries

Hundreds of support staff at P.E.I. schools are applying for CERB funds they may not be eligible for, and their union can’t find a way around it.

‘We weren’t laid off due to COVID’

Educational assistants and some other education support workers are laid off every summer on P.E.I. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Hundreds of support staff at P.E.I. schools are applying for CERB funds they may not be eligible for, and their union can't find a way around it.

Educational assistants, youth service workers and substitute teachers working in the P.E.I. school system are laid off every summer, and apply for EI benefits. But they are finding a change on the form this year.

"The box that you tick off for regular layoff also includes 'laid off due to COVID-19,' so that puts us right into that Canada Emergency Benefit Fund, even though we weren't laid off due to COVID," said Carolyn Vandale, president of CUPE 3260.

CUPE represents about 700 EAs, youth service workers and substitutes in the P.E.I. school system.

Vandale said she first started hearing from her members about the issue during March break, another time when the workers are typically laid off. 

"They called the EI office and said, 'We weren't laid off due to COVID. We're going back to work in a week's time,' but there was no fixing it," she said.

Combined tick box creates several concerns

Now, months later, Vandale's members are applying for EI again, and there has been no change in the form.

Vandale has a number of concerns in relation to the change. The biggest is her members may eventually be deemed ineligible for CERB, and find themselves having to pay it back. Another is that unlike EI, income tax is not deducted from CERB, so her members will need to prepare to pay some of it back in April. 

"If they had've just put an extra box that you could've checked off, 'lay off due to COVID-19,' there would have been none of this," said Vandale.

On Monday. CBC News asked for a response from Employment and Social Development Canada. Officials said they would respond as soon as possible, but had not as of early Thursday morning.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning


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