P.E.I. MP 'hopeful' emergency benefits for seasonal workers coming soon

Island Liberal MP Wayne Easter says he's "hopeful" seasonal workers  will soon be able to qualify for $500/week under the Canada emergency response benefit.

'Am I going to be one of the ones who's going to fall through the cracks?'

As it stands, to qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, you need to have been forced to stop working for reasons related to the pandemic. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Island Liberal MP Wayne Easter says he is "hopeful" seasonal workers will soon be able to qualify for $500 per week under the Canada emergency response benefit, or CERB. 

The federal government started issuing CERB payments a week ago to Canadians who were forced to stop working because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Those who qualify can expect payments for up to 16 weeks. 

But so far seasonal employees — who have been off all winter waiting for jobs to start up — aren't eligible to apply. 

Many, like server Kim Baglole, say their seasonal jobs are now in jeopardy. 

Kim Baglole has been drawing EI all winter, waiting for her serving job at a Summerside restaurant to start up soon. Now, she says it's not clear when or if that job will go ahead. (Kim Baglole)

"I'm just wondering what's going to happen after the unemployment runs out," said Baglole. 

"I can't work as a waitress, there's nothing open. My husband is disabled. He's in a wheelchair with MS. So am I going to be one of the ones who's going to fall through the cracks?"

'I believe it will happen'

Easter said his government's close to ensuring Baglole and others don't fall through the cracks. 

The MP and chair of the government's finance committee was part of a special sitting of Parliament on Saturday, and said Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough assured the House her department is working to extend the benefit to seasonal workers. 

Malpeque MP Wayne Easter spoke to CBC from his constituency office in Hunter River. Easter says he's been fielding many calls from seasonal workers frutrated they don't qualify for the CERB. (Wayne Easter/Zoom)

"I don't want to say it's absolutely there until I see the minister sign off entirely on it," Easter said. 

"But I do think we're making very good progress, and I believe it will happen," said Easter. 

What about students? 

There have also been concerns raised from students on P.E.I. and across the country, who had spring and summer jobs lined up that have been impacted by COVID-19. 

Like seasonal workers, they don't currently qualify for the CERB either. 

"That's something else being worked on," said Easter. 

Easter said he expects more details around changes to the CERB program will be announced in the coming days. 

According to Easter, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough assured Parliament on Saturday her deparment is working to make seasonal workers eligible for CERB. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Even if seasonal workers and students do qualify for the benefit, he said that doesn't entirely solve the problem. 

If their jobs don't go ahead or their hours are cut because of COVID-19, they may not be able to work enough hours to qualify for EI in the fall. 

"What do we all do then?" asked Baglole. "The further forward you look ahead, the more scary it can be."

"That is another problem we're going to have to look at down the road," said Easter. "But let's first deal with the immediate problem of trying to get money in these people's pockets."

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More from CBC P.E.I.


Steve Bruce

Video journalist

Steve Bruce is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. He landed on the Island in 2009, after stints with CBC in Fredericton, St. John's, Toronto and Vancouver. He grew up in Corner Brook, N.L.


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