She did not earn at least $5,000 of employment income in the last year, so she does not qualify for the CERB, even though her spousal support payments are taxable income. As many provincial support programs are tied to CERB eligibility, she is also unable to receive support through the $1,000 B.C. Emergency Benefit program or the B.C. Hydro COVID-19 Relief Fund. Ensuring her eligibility for CERB would grant access to a network of support beyond the benefit itself.
MP Kwan followed up on this question directly with Minister Qualtrough on April 24, 2020 at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills, and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA). The Minister’s answer at that time was:
Thank you for that question. It's something I've been thinking a lot about as we've been looking at groups, in particular vulnerable groups.
For the group of women you're talking about—and I say this knowing that women are disproportionally in this situation—while they would have received, most likely because of low income, the additional goods and services tax credit we had, and while they are going to be receiving an additional increase through the Canada child benefit per child, that falls short of replacing income they would have had through spousal support payments.
I am looking into this. Although spousal support payments aren't technically considered employment income, it is something I'm turning my mind to because of the particular vulnerability of this group.
We were encouraged at the time that the Minister signalled an interest in finding a solution and have stood ready to assist in quickly developing a response. To date there is no evidence that the government has been meaningfully following up on this concern, with opposition parties or otherwise. Surely you can appreciate that the additional GST credit and Canada Child Benefit supplement, while welcome, are not enough for families who depend on spousal and child support to anchor their household budget.
In a spirit of collaboration, and to bring as quick an end to these trying circumstances as possible, we are proactively proposing two solutions for your immediate consideration:
Include spousal and child support payments in definition of ‘income’ for the purpose of CERB eligibility. This would make it possible for many people in this situation to access CERB benefits without delay.
For people who have qualified for CERB, they may nevertheless not be able to make rent and put food on the table without the additional income. This is especially true in jurisdictions like Vancouver and Toronto, where the cost of living is extremely high.