Canadians who take time off work to care for gravely ill family members will be eligible for greater financial assistance under a measure proposed in the 2015 federal budget.
The budget, presented on Tuesday, proposes to extend Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits to six months, from the current duration of six weeks, as of January 2016. The program provides financial assistance to people who have to be away from work temporarily to care for a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death.
The measure will cost the government up to $37 million annually.
"For more and more Canadians, caring for family not only means making sure the kids get the best start possible in life. It means being there for parents and other elderly relatives through their final days," said Finance Minister Joe Oliver, in his budget speech on Tuesday. "When someone you love is gravely ill, you should be free to focus on what matters most."
The budget document indicates that the government has heard from health stakeholders, such as the Health Charities Coalition of Canada, that the existing program parameters do not reflect the financial realities and hardships associated with caring for a dying family member.
The government references a 2011 report from the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, which notes that family caregivers provide 70% to 80% of care given in Canadian homes and communities, worth an estimated $25 billion per year.
Under the new program, an individual with a salary of $49,500 who takes time off to care for a terminally ill family member would be eligible to receive benefits of $524 per week for up to six months, providing a total benefit amount of $13,624. Under the current policy, that individual would only receive up to six weeks of benefits, totaling $3,144.