‘Pretty good for government’: Laid-off workers praise ease of COVID-19 emergency benefits site

By | April 7, 2020

About a month ago the work started to dry up for Denis Grinko, a floor installer in Winnipeg.

Contracts for new jobs disappeared suddenly — a ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic that would leave Grinko without a job.

Grinko, 30, got some relief on Monday when applications opened for the federal government’s Canada emergency response benefit.

“Three clicks — spectacular, actually set up, like, super simply,” said a surprised Grinko Monday night outside the Osborne Liquor Mart.

Dawn Benoit said she got an error when she first tried to apply for the CERB Monday but said it was quickly resolved. (John Einarson/CBC)

“I clicked, like, three buttons. It said ‘you’ll have your money in three days,’ which is pretty good for government.”

Grinko, who was born in January, said the application for the benefit, which gives $2,000 a month to employees who’ve had to stop working due to the COVID-19 crisis, was problem-free for him.

“Maybe there should be more checks as to what people are eligible or not but in this particular climate I think it’s just good to get money out there.”

People born from January to March were eligible to apply for the CERB Monday.

The Office of the Minister of National Revenue said as of Monday at 3 p.m. ET, over 3.18 million Canadians have applied for the CERB. The figure includes laid-off workers who applied for EI from March 15 onward and were transferred to the special benefit program, said press secretary Jeremy Bellefeuille.

Applications are now open for the Canada emergency response benefit. (CBC)

Error on site quickly resolved

The federal government is telling people born in April, May or June to apply for the benefit on Tuesdays. Folks born from July to September can apply on Wednesdays and the remaining months on Thursdays.

Dawn Benoit said she got an error when she first tried to apply for the CERB Monday.

The self-employed Winnipegger, who sells air purifying and home cleaning systems, said she hit refresh and was able to get through no problem. “Out of 10, really really easy,” she said, summing up the process.

She too has been off work for about a month and said it is a direct result of COVID-19.

Taime Doucette found the process of being switched over from EI to the CERB confusing. (John Einarson/CBC)

“People are afraid to let anybody into their homes.”

Taime Doucette has had a tougher time getting help from the federal government. The bartender, who was laid off on March 15, first applied for EI but was actually eligible for the CERB.

The benefit is for workers laid off from March 15 to October 3 this year. He said once his EI application was processed, his account said he would be getting regular EI benefits — 55 per cent of his wage despite the fact the government says people who applied for EI on or after March 15 would be switched to the CERB.

EI, or CERB? Confusion around aid

“I was a little bit worried. I have a young daughter to take care of and I had conflicting information about what I was going to be getting. Was I going to be getting EI or the CERB? No idea there’s not really a lot of clear information,” he said outside his River Heights home.

Doucette ended up being switched over to the CERB, which in his case paid slightly more than EI, and said he found the whole process unclear.

Savannah O’Connell has been out of work for a month but is in good spirits. (John Einarson/CBC)

“Leading up to that it was pretty confusing and pretty worrisome.”

Savannah O’Connell is waiting for her turn on Thursday to apply for the CERB. The orthodontic technician has been out of work for a month.

“All the dentists closed down so we can’t really make retainers for them if they’re not open.”

Her partner still has a job but she’s already had to belt-tighten.

“I’m just here to get an avocado so if I had more money I could be getting a couple avocados and a couple more groceries but I guess I’m just here with what I have,” she said with a laugh outside the Safeway in South Osborne Monday night.

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