Mississauga and Brampton workers could be eligible for $4,000 a month in sick benefits if provincial and federal government officials agree on the terms of a plan for Ontario.
Members of Doug Ford’s Ontario government have pitched the idea to counterparts in Ottawa which calls for the province to double the $500 a week that is already available to workers across the country under the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). In exchange for the extra cash, Queen’s Park wants the federal government to administer the program.
The CRSB already pays eligible sick workers for up to one month but critics maintain that it is difficult to access and takes too long to process. As well, the low-profile of the program has saw a relatively low number of people apply considering the federal government has made $1 billion available. As result, the provincial government has been under intense pressure to come up with its own sick benefits program.
“As part of Ontario’s plan to address gaps in the programs available for workers, Ontario would like to move ahead and double the benefit for every Ontario application,” wrote Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy in a letter to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. “Specifically we would like everyone in Ontario to be eligible for $1,000 per week, as opposed to the current $500.”
The need for paid sick benefits has been front and centre with Peel Region politicians and health officials for months. They have argued that workers with COVID-19 are still turning up at workplaces deemed essential because they cannot financially afford to take the time off to isolate.
Under the proposed joint benefit program, eligible workers would be entitled to get $1,000 a week for four weeks if they have to take time off because of COVID-19 related illness.
The provincial government believes Ottawa is best equipped to deal with the distribution of funds because it already has a delivery system in place, although acknowledging it needs upgrading.
Last week Premier Doug Ford said his government is working on a sick benefits plan but did not commit to any timeframe.