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Coronavirus: Canadian employment insurance to be expanded in new stimulus package

Coronavirus outbreak: Morneau announces $10 billion to support businesses amid COVID-19 concerns
WATCH ABOVE (MARCH 13, 2020): Coronavirus outbreak: Morneau announces $10 billion to support businesses amid COVID-19 concerns

As the Canadian government continues to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak, a new stimulus package set to be unveiled Wednesday will include expansions on employment insurance, Global News has learned.

The economic package, which a senior Canadian government source says is an “estimated $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses,” will be presented by Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

The prime minister has been meeting with key cabinet to ministers to develop the plan over the last few days and its implementation will require a “pared down” version of parliament to be recalled so that all parties can agree after a suspension in proceedings was announced last week.

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READ MORE: Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada

Global News has also learned that the deadline for filing income tax returns for individuals and businesses will be extended by one month to June 1 and July 31, respectively.

The economic measures come amid the prime minister’s announcement on Monday to close the Canadian borders to most foreign nationals except for Americans, Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that details of the spending package would arrive quickly, and that further measures would be implemented in the coming days to shield the Canadian economy from the blow of the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus outbreak: Federal government says it will help workers with no EI benefits
Coronavirus outbreak: Federal government says it will help workers with no EI benefits

Last Wednesday, Trudeau announced that one-week waiting periods for EI sickness benefits would be lifted for those in quarantine or self-isolation. The EI work-sharing program would also receive a boost of $12 million, which will be used to supplement work income when an employer needs to cut hours over a business’ downturn.

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However, the measures announced have prompted further calls for expanded support and coverage on who is able to receive EI.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Many not eligible for EI sickness benefits, experts say

In an interview with Global News, political economist and senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Ricardo Tranjan said that the government’s actions was “a good overall policy,” but expressed his concern on which Canadians might be left behind.

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According to his research, only 67 per cent of unemployed workers who contributed to EI were eligible for benefits in 2017.

To date, the virus has infected nearly 200,000 and killed close to 8,000 people worldwide.

In Canada, 556 cases have been confirmed, as well as a further 5 deaths.

— With files from the Canadian Press and Global News’ Mike LeCouteur, Kerri Breen