The federal government has extended the period of time claimants can receive several pandemic income benefits, including the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), but ACTA president Wendy Paradis says the extension does not go far enough to support travel advisors.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Friday that the CRB, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and Employment Insurance (EI) will receive extensions in the number of weeks eligible recipients can receive them.
The CRB, which replaced the government’s Canada Economic Recovery Benefit (CERB) program, will be extended from 26 to 38 weeks that recipients are eligible for aid. The income support program provides $1,000 over a two week period to those who don’t qualify for EI. It was set to expire at the end of March.
The changes to EI will depend on legislation receiving approval in Parliament which Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough believes will be supported by opposition parties.
ACTA’s Paradis tells Open Jaw the association is “pleased” the government did not wait until the official federal budget to reveal the extension, but cautioned it “falls quite short of what is needed for our sector.”
“For many independent travel agents the CRB program is their only income source at the moment, so it is vital for most ITAs. We are also advocating that the government ‘cut the red tape’ and make as many financial support programs, and at the highest level, available to as many travel agencies and independent travel agents as possible. The financial situation for our industry is dire,” Paradis said.
She says agents should be aware, “there do not appear to be any additional eligibility requirements. However, we have learned over the past eleven months that the government has changed criteria at the time programs are re-opened.”
Lobbying for the extension of the CRB program has been one of ACTA’s highest priorities since the start of the new year, Paradis said, and will continue to be of high importance in its discussions with federal officials.
“In light of all of the travel restrictions currently in place and the lag time for recovery once restrictions are eased, ACTA will continue to actively advocate on behalf of Independent Travel Agents that the CRB continue until September 30, 2021 or until 90 days after travel restrictions have been eased,” Paradis said.
The CRCB, also extended to 38 weeks, provides income support to individuals who are unable to work because they must care for a child or family member who needs supervised care. The government is also seeking to increase the maximum period recipients can receive EI benefits to 50 weeks, an extension of 24 weeks.
The CRSB, designed to support those who cannot work due to illness or having to self-isolate in the pandemic, will be extended to four weeks from the previous two.
Paradis notes, “the changes to the Recovery Benefit programs only require regulatory change whereas the extension to EI benefits requires a legislative change.