July 3, 2015

On many occasions in the last few years I have heard from healthcare professionals and community organizations about the importance of improving the Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits Program.

I am personally aware of how the current program has been utilized in Burlington, by both adult children of elderly parents and organizations such as Easter Seals Ontario, where parents look after their physically disabled children.

Many of my colleagues and I advocated for improvements to the program and we were pleased to see that program enhancements were included in the recent 2015 federal budget.

Currently, compassionate care benefits (CCB) provide up to six weeks of temporary income support to eligible individuals who leave work to care for a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks.

Benefits may be taken within a 26-week period once a doctor attests to the medical condition of their family member.

The new measure increases the duration of CCB to a maximum of 26 weeks, which may be taken within an expanded period of 52 weeks.

According to the Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment report, there were 6,003 claims for EI compassionate care benefits. It is estimated that up to 6,900 claimants per year could benefit from the enhanced measure, which takes effect Jan. 3, 2016.

If a claimant is already in receipt of CCB at this time, that claimant will benefit from the new provisions. This also means that if other EI-eligible individuals wish to share benefits with an existing claimant, but had not yet submitted a claim themselves, they may also benefit from the new provisions.

Supporting families and communities is one of our government’s main priorities. Enhancing the EI compassionate care benefits provides additional financial security to Canadian workers and their families in times of need.

Given our aging population, I believe that Burlington will positively benefit from this enhanced program.

– Mike Wallace