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Canadians apply for emergency benefit amid COVID-19 with few hiccups

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says 240,000 people applied for emergency benefit
WATCH: Trudeau says 240,000 people applied for emergency benefit

Canadians who lost their income during the COVID-19 pandemic began applying for the federal government’s new emergency aid benefit Monday, but some had more success than others.

The online portal opened for applications at 6 a.m. ET.

A statement from the minister of national revenue’s office said that a total of 3.18 million applications were received as of 3 p.m. ET, and that the Canada Revenue Agency was processing 1,000 applications per minute on average.

Applications for Canadian COVID-19 financial assistance open Monday
Applications for Canadian COVID-19 financial assistance open Monday

Canadians can apply through Canada Revenue Agency or call Service Canada, which is working with the CRA on the effort.

But not everyone has been able to get through.

Some people trying to apply via phone said the lines haven’t been able to handle high call volumes.

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One person tweeted that they waited for two hours and the line “got cut off.”

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For those encountering issues with the phone line, Service Canada has a request form where you can schedule a call back.

For those who chose to apply online, many people said the process was relatively quick.

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“A four click application, including login, and there is my confirmation right on screen: You have successfully applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit,” one person tweeted. “Four clicks!”

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The Canada Revenue Agency is trying to avoid its website crashing under the weight of the applications by asking Canadians to apply on certain days this week, based on their month of birth.

Monday, the first day applications are being accepted, is open to those born in January, February or March. People born in April, May or June can apply Tuesday, while those born in July, August or September can apply Wednesday. Thursday is set for people born in October, November or December, while the weekend — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — is open to anyone.

READ MORE: Who's eligible for the CERB for COVID-19 and how to apply

More than two million Canadians lost their jobs in March as businesses across the country were forced to reduce their operations or close to curtail the spread of the virus.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will deliver $2,000 every four weeks for up to four months for those workers who have lost their paycheque or seen it significantly reduced. Those who choose the direct deposit option will see money in their account within three to five days.

There have been some concerns about the qualifications for CERB.

More aid coming, Trudeau says

Trudeau acknowledged that some people are “falling between the cracks” with CERB, including university and college students and workers with “massively” reduced hours.

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“If you are working reduced hours, down to 10 hours a week or less, we will soon announce how you will benefit from the CERB,” he said. “We’ll also have more to say for those who are working, but making less than they would with the benefit.”

He pointed to home care and retirement home workers as an example of this.

New CERB to offer Canadians more money than EI
New CERB to offer Canadians more money than EI

“We’re looking carefully at how we can increase their pay a little bit so that they do better off remaining at work, rather than going off work and receiving the emergency response benefit,” he said.

He added that work to support students is also underway, but provided few other details. He said a formal announcement of the “fine-tunings” would happen “in the coming days.”

“For people in all these situations — we see you, and we’re going to be there for you,” he said. “We’re working as hard as we can to get you the support you need.”

The wage benefit is expected to cost the government $24 billion.

— With files from the Canadian Press