April 16, 2020
Sent to: Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair, Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
Hon. Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
OPEN LETTER: ASSISTANCE FOR SINGLE PARENTS FOR WHOSE SPOUSAL AND CHILD PAYMENTS ARE INTERRUPTED DUE TO COVID-19
Ministers Freeland, Qualtrough and Morneau,
The implications of Covid-19 has been far-reaching. As people continue to struggle in the face of this unprecedented pandemic, the need for government assistance is more urgent than ever. We recognize that the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides some relief to individuals in need but, it remains that there are many who are left behind. We are glad to see some of the changes we advocated for to close the gaps were adopted over the past weekend, however, still many people do not qualify for assistance.
Based on the current eligibility rules for CERB, it would appear that single parents who are no longer receiving vital spousal or child support payments due to their ex-partners' income being affected by COVID-19 are not eligible.
Understandably, changes in an individual’s financial circumstances have been magnified during this time. This extends to ex-partners no longer having the income to make their spousal and child support payments, and in effect many single parents are suddenly left scrambling as their income has been severely reduced. Currently, child and spousal support does not qualify as income for the purposes of Employment Insurance (EI), nor as revenue for the purpose of qualifying for CERB.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Several instances of this have already been brought to the attention of MP Kwan. To provide an example, one constituent is a single mother and a full-time university student. Her ex-husband owns an optometry clinic and agreed to pay both child and spousal support after their divorce. After the closure of his business due to COVID-19, she received a letter from his lawyers that he could no longer afford to send this support because of his loss of income. She does not currently qualify for CERB and has no real avenue to pursue.
Michelle Guy, a family lawyer in Vancouver, has cited there are other clients coming to her who are also in this position and they do not know where to turn for help. Constituents are worried as they cannot pursue any action in receiving these payments due to the reduced capacity of the court systems during the pandemic. Even if they could take this step, there is still the underlying problem that their ex-partner would simply not have the money to pay their spousal/child support. This problem needs to be addressed at its core to ensure single parents can continue to adequately care for their children in the face of this unprecedented pandemic.
We ask that you take immediate action to ensure that families who are no longer receiving spousal and/or child support be eligible to receive CERB.
Not only do single parents face increased stress and anxiety, but their children will feel the impact of this severely reduced support. They are put at risk and are in need of urgent assistance.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and we look forward to your prompt response.
Jenny Kwan, MP, Vancouver East
Daniel Blaikie, MP, Elmwood-Transcona
Cc: The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos (Vice-Chair)
The Hon. Navdeep Singh Bains
The Hon. William Sterling Blair
The Hon. Patricia Hajdu
The Hon. Mélanie Joly
The Hon. Kirsty Duncan