New changes to Employment Insurance will cost $7.7B, PBO predicts

The cost of changing up the country’s Employment Insurance rules to allow more workers impacted by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic to qualify may be slightly more than originally thought.

In a costing note released Monday, the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer pegged the expected costs of expanding the qualification criteria at $7.7 billion this fiscal year, then dropping to $5.8 billion in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which starts in April 2021.

READ MORE: Canada’s EI system absorbed almost 1.3M people in last 3 weeks, new figures show

When the Liberals announced they were changing the program so more workers laid off or suffering from cut hours because of pandemic restrictions could qualify, they had pegged the cost at $7 billion this fiscal year, with the modifications set to last for one year until September 2021.

That forecast came as part of the rollout of a $37-billion plan that modified EI and created three new recovery benefits for workers who didn’t qualify for EI, caregivers and sick Canadians.

READ MORE: Liberals unveil $37B for CERB transition to new benefits, EI changes

Those new benefits and the modified EI criteria kicked in late last month after the Canada Emergency Recovery Benefit (CERB) wrapped up. Applications can still be made retroactively for the CERB until Dec. 2, 2020, if an individual thinks they qualified for a period while the program was active.

More than 240,000 Canadians applied to switch to EI on the first day of the modified program.

In the roughly three weeks since then, the EI system has absorbed 1.3 million people.

Click to play video 'Navigating the transition from CERB to EI' 2:52 Navigating the transition from CERB to EI

Navigating the transition from CERB to EI

— With files from the Canadian Press.

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