Authors: Kristin Gibson, Dany Théberge, Christine Jeroski
On June 23, 2020, the province announced the Manitoba Job Restart Program to provide up to $2,000 to Manitobans who return to work and opt to no longer receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”), the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (“CESB”), or other COVID-19 related income support delivered by the Federal Government.
Federal Aid Programs
By way of background, the CERB is available to an individual who:
- has stopped working for reasons related to COVID-19;
- is eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) regular or sickness benefits; or
- is a former EI claimant who used up their entitlement to their EI regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020.
The individual also cannot earn more than $1,000 in income for at least 14 consecutive days before initially applying for the benefit, and no more than $1,000 for every subsequent four-week period, up to a maximum of 24 weeks. The CERB is available for the period of March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020, and may be retroactively applied.
The CESB provides financial support to post-secondary students and recent post-secondary students and high school graduates who are not otherwise eligible for the CERB or EI benefits. From May to August 2020, the CESB provides a payment to eligible students of $1,250 for each four-week period, or $2,000 for each four-week period if the applicant has dependents or a disability. Similar to the CERB, students who are working during the COVID-19 pandemic must maintain an income of $1,000 or less during the four-week period they are applying for in order to remain eligible for the benefit.
The Manitoba Job Restart Program
The Manitoba Job Restart Program (the “Program”) provides direct taxable income to a maximum of $2,000 to Manitobans who return to work for a minimum of 30 hours per week with one or more eligible employers. Qualifying employees must also have voluntarily stopped collecting CERB, CESB, or other COVID-19 related income support delivered by the Federal Government (“federal COVID-19 related income support”).
The Program will provide an initial payment of $500 to eligible employees, plus three additional bi-weekly payments of $500 for a total taxable benefit of $2,000 over a six-week period. Funds will be directly deposited into participating employees’ bank accounts.
Once enrolled in the Program, participating employees must complete a bi-weekly reporting survey where they must confirm that they continue to be employed for at least 30 hours per week and that they are not enrolled in any federal COVID-19 related income support programs.
As indicated by the provincial government, the Program will be fully funded by the province. Contributions from eligible employers will not be required.
Manitobans are eligible to apply for the Program if they meet the following criteria:
- are receiving benefits from federal COVID-19 related income support programs at the time of the application;
- will not continue to apply and collect federal COVID-19 related income support in future months;
- have been offered employment by an eligible employer with an anticipated start-date no more than seven days into the future;
- anticipate working a minimum of 30 hours per week;
- are legally entitled to work in Canada;
- have been a Manitoba resident since April 1, 2020; and
- have a valid Canadian bank account.
Individuals employed on a part-time basis and receiving CERB or CESB benefits (i.e., earning less than $1,000 from employment income per four-week period) are eligible to apply for the Program. Such individuals must increase their number of hours to a minimum of 30 hours per week with either their current eligible employer, with one or more new eligible employer(s) in addition to their current employer or through new full-time employment with a new eligible employer.
To remain in the Program, approved applicants must:
- agree to complete a bi-weekly reporting survey;
- voluntarily stop receiving federal COVID-19 related income support at the time of the application; and
- attest that they will follow Manitoba’s COVID-19 related public health guidelines for the workplace.
Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis starting June 26, 2020 until July 31, 2020. Applicants may apply directly to the Program via the online application process. Manitobans who have been offered employment are asked to apply within seven days of their proposed start date. Once enrolled in the Program, participants will receive an initial payment of $500, and the bi-weekly reporting period dates will be subsequently communicated via e-mail.
Funding for the Program will come from remaining unspent balances from other provincial COVID-19 related support programs, including the Manitoba Gap Protection Plan and Manitoba Summer Student Recovery Jobs Program, though the province has indicated that additional funding could be made available if there is significant interest in the Program.
MLT Aikins will continue to monitor the situation and keep employers appraised of any further details pertaining to the Manitoba Job Restart Program. Employers considering how the Program applies to their business and employees should contact a member of our labour and employment team in Winnipeg.