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Federal budget boosts EI for struggling regions

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7

Struggling McMurrayites are getting some help from the federal government.

Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau released the 2016 budget Tuesday, announcing changes to employment insurance for 12 struggling regions across the country.

Among those regions is the RMWB, which has been hit hardest by low oil prices.

The changes involve extending EI benefits for between 5 to 20 weeks depending on how long an individual had been employed for, as well as reducing the number of hours-worked required to receive benefits. The measures are also retroactive to January 2015, meaning anyone who’s claimed EI in that time period may be eligible.

“I’m particularly pleased that the Prime Minister responded to my call to make immediate changes to employment insurance,” said Premier Rachel Notley at a post-budget press availability. “This will help struggling Alberta families and unemployed workers right away.”

Also, as of January 1, 2017, wait times for EI will be reduced from two weeks to one week, and the amount employers have to pay per employee will go down by 27 cents.

The government says these changes will make 50,000 more workers eligible for EI country-wide. The Bank of Montreal has noted that these changes will cost approximately $603m for the feds.

Overall, the federal budget comes in with a $29.4bn deficit, nearly triple what the Liberals promised during the election campaign.

Other budget spending promises include:

  • $8.4bn for indigenous schooling, health, and safety
  • Phase out of child art and fitness tax credit
  • Rollout of Canada Child Care Benefit
  • Increase in GIS for seniors
  • $2bn for R&D investments

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