New mom waits for EI benefits repair delayed by campaign


OTTAWA – Amanda Elkington experienced a roller coaster pregnancy through two school closures in Ontario as the province grappled with the second and third waves of COVID-19.

Each time, the educator went to employment insurance, while considering parental leave with her first child which would be devoted to all the activities she had done with the young students in her after-school program.

The vision has changed as she faces the possibility of being cut off from her benefits in December.

His situation is not unique, in the context of an issue that the government learned about in the spring. But her story also shows how a pause in policy making during election campaigns can leave people like Elkington and other mothers in limbo.

“It’s just unfortunate, because I have taken care of everyone else’s children for the past 10 years, and now, finally, I can go with my own child and Service Canada is just refusing me. this time, ”he said. -old said.

“This (time) is crucial, and the time I have I spend stressing out.”

Eligible workers need a minimum number of working hours to qualify for Employment Insurance benefits, including maternity and parental leave. The threshold is typically around 600 hours, but the federal government lowered the figure to 420 during the pandemic.

When a new mother receiving regular EI benefits gives birth, she must reapply for maternity and parental benefits, which means that she usually has to meet the hours requirement again even if she does not. may not have been able to work due to the pandemic like Elkington.

Elkington began collecting Employment Insurance benefits at the end of December 2020 when the Ontario government announced it was extending school closures after winter recess.

She stopped receiving benefits when schools reopened in February, leaving weeks unused on her claim, but resumed receiving benefits until schools closed in April for the remainder of the school year.

It was then that she was told she had to work her hours to qualify for parental leave, or be cut off in December. The reason is because the government gave him a one-time supplement designed to help people qualify for Employment Insurance after losing their jobs due to COVID-19.

Elkington thought she had enough hours to qualify. Even if she didn’t, the top-up could only be used once, which meant she had to rack up the hours again if she wanted parental leave.

The hole in the social safety net was pointed out to the Liberals in May and the government has promised to find a fix.

The department that oversees Employment Insurance, Employment and Social Development Canada, pointed to the 420-hour requirement and the existing rules for filing claims when asked what changes had been made.

The various MP offices Elkington has contacted have told him that any workaround will require a change in policy, and that usually cannot happen during an election campaign when the government goes into interim mode.

Most political decisions stop and will not resume until after the election, and probably not until a new cabinet is sworn in, which could be weeks after election day.

Elkington said anyone else she contacted for help was unable to say what they could do.

Now she’s either worried about losing her benefits in December to stay home with Wren, which would make paying the bills difficult, or going back to work and being forced to pay hefty child care costs, if she can find a way. a square.

“I’m hurrying,” Elkington said. “Plan B, I guess I’m going back to work, but I don’t know what to do with (Wren), and it’s not a very good feeling.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 14, 2021.

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