PCU: penalties lifted for social assistance recipients

The Quebec government is halting reductions in social assistance checks for recipients who have received the Canada Emergency Benefit (CEP) for three months. The cohabitation of the two programs had created a lot of confusion in recent months.

“I am announcing a moratorium on the recovery of overpayments,” Minister Jean Boulet told the Duty. “We do it in a gesture of great empathy towards these people. “

The measure will come into force from November for a period of three months

Since ECPs were very easy to access, many people on welfare received it when they were not entitled to it.

This has given rise to all kinds of problems. While the Canada Revenue Agency was slow to define a clear mechanism for reimbursement, the Government of Quebec had started to reduce provider checks.

Several organizations urged the minister to lift the penalties while waiting for Ottawa to take a position.

“People find themselves repaying the provincial debt they contracted with the federal government and which the federal government will probably ask them to repay! », Explains Virginie Larivière of the Collectif pour un Québec sans poverty.

Another phenomenon, it seems that some have quit welfare altogether to enroll in PCU. This would partly explain the most recent statistics on the number of social assistance recipients in Quebec, which have never been so low. Thus, between July 2019 and last July, the social assistance rate fell from 6.3% to 5%. A record low since 1975.

Towards an increase in the number of social assistance recipients?

What will happen now for all those who cannot find a job after the pandemic? Should we expect a significant increase in the number of social assistance recipients?

There will “certainly” be an upsurge in requests for social assistance when the PCRE (Canadian Economic Recovery Benefit) expires, concedes Minister Jean Boulet, who is struggling to estimate the scale for the time being.

People can receive PCRE for up to 26 weeks. After that, the government wants to offer “support” to PCRE beneficiaries, he said. “A personalized career plan to help them get back to work” possibly in a new field.

The minister is also counting on the Objectif-Emploi program, which is already targeting people registering for social assistance for the first time. “Since taking office, I have placed a lot of emphasis on this program. My premise is that the best way to empower people on social assistance is through employment. “

Launched under the Liberals, Objectif Emploi forces new candidates for social assistance to take steps (training or otherwise) to eventually re-enter the labor market. Those who follow the procedures receive bonuses, but Objectif Emploi also provides for penalties for participants who do not keep their appointments or abandon them.

When the program was launched, the principle of these penalties had given rise to a deluge of protests. Three years later, we find that a minority of people (0.5% or 70 people) have suffered these penalties, suggesting that the threat of penalty plays its role more than the imposition of the penalty itself.

According to a ministry report, the program is helping people “get back on track.” However, the ministry does not yet have data on the proportion of them who have found work, not least because the program lasts two years and came into effect only a little earlier.

In data | Our interactive content on COVID-19

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