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Federal Government Announces Changes to Employment Insurance Benefits

August 21, 2020

Support for Plant Workers, Other Seasonal Workers and Those Who Have Lost Their Jobs Due to COVID-19

August 20, 2020 – The federal government announced changes to benefits yesterday afternoon for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These new changes will help processing workers, other seasonal workers as well as those who have lost their jobs or have reduced hours due to the pandemic.

  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be extended for an additional month followed by the introduction of recovery benefits and changes to the EI program.
  • Under the new changes, workers will now need 120 hours to qualify for 26 weeks of employment insurance. Minimum benefits will now be at least $400 per week.
  • The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) will provide $500 per week for up to two weeks, for workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • Workers who are self-employed or are ineligible for EI and still require income support, and who are available and looking for work, will be eligible for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) which will provide $400 per week for up to 26 weeks.

However, these proposed changes will need to be passed in the House of Commons next month.

Changes to Fishing Employment Insurance

Unfortunately, the federal government has yet to provide clarification on how the process for Employment Insurance for fish harvesters will function this year following Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment in May. The Federal Government reiterated this commitment in their August 20th announcement but has not clarified how or when these changes to fishing EI will be rolled out.

What we do know:

  • The government’s commitment is that Employment Insurance benefits for the 2020 season will not be less than earned in previous seasons. Meaning if your claim this year is less than last year, the federal government will payout amounts from previous years.
  • You still need to file for EI. File as you normally would, even if your earnings are less than this time last year. If you have enough earnings for a first claim, file it as usual.
  • If you do not fish at all this year, you will not be eligible for EI based on last year’s earnings. However, you are eligible for four months of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) if you are laid off or not fishing due to health concerns.

We continue to urge Ottawa to release the details of this program as soon as possible so that harvester and their families are not facing uncertainty for the coming months.

To speak to a Service Canada agent, please call 1-800-206-7218.


The recent announcement to support the fishing industry with the Fish Harvester Benefit and Fish Harvester Grant falls short of supporting the entirety of our fishing sector as plant workers and other industry professionals require equivalent support. Write your MP now to let them know support is needed now.