Liberals adjust CERB to help those with reduced hours

By Staff, with files from The Canadian Press | April 15, 2020 | Last updated on April 15, 2020
2 min read
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The federal government is making changes to its Covid-19 programs to send emergency aid to seasonal workers without jobs and those whose hours have been drastically cut but who still have some income.

The changes will allow people who are making up to $1,000 a month to qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, as well as those whose employment insurance benefits have run out since the start of the calendar year.

Seasonal workers who have exhausted their regular EI benefits and whose seasonal work has been disrupted by the outbreak will also qualify.

The changes will be retroactive to March 15.

For those doing jobs deemed essential and making less than $2,500 a month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will top up their pay to encourage them to keep going into work during the health and economic crisis.

The payment will come through a transfer to the provinces to boost pay for front-line workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities and food services, a government backgrounder said.

Quebec and B.C. already implemented wage support for low-income essential workers.

He says the government is still weeks away from seriously considering loosening public health restrictions to reopen the domestic economy, something that will be done in phases with some regions and industries starting sooner than others.

The changes begin to address key concerns about who qualifies for the $2,000-a-month benefit, which was quickly put in place earlier this month to deal with the pandemic’s economic fallout.

In the last month, the national economy has contracted sharply as businesses have been ordered closed and Canadians told to stay home.

Preliminary data from Statistics Canada on Wednesday showed economic activity collapsed in March, suggesting the drop could be a record 9%.

Some six million people have applied for the help since the middle of March when businesses were ordered closed and workers to stay at home as a public health precaution.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said it was too early to say how many people will apply for the help, or how much it will add to the cost of the $24-billion program.

She said much will rest on how many companies use an upcoming $73 billion wage subsidy program, which will cover up to 75% of employee salaries. The government is expecting companies to take advantage of the program to keep workers tied to an employer, meaning fewer of them would be in receipt of the CERB.

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Staff, with files from The Canadian Press

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