Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is “working on a solution” to extend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) as many Canadians still can’t return to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trudeau said more details about the extension will be available sometime this week.
“I want to reassure all Canadians who are receiving the CERB and who are looking for a job and want to make sure they will find a job between now and the end of the CERB, that we will continue to be there to help them. We’ve said this from the very beginning,” he said in French on Monday.
The federal government opened applications for the aid program on April 6. It provides eligible applicants with $2,000 every four weeks.
Canadians can only claim the benefit for a total of 16 weeks — or four pay periods. The program’s fourth period — early July — is fast approaching.
Essentially, those who had been receiving the CERB continuously since mid-March would have exhausted their benefits by July 4. The next expiry date would be Aug. 1.
Trudeau would not definitively say how long the program would be extended or what else may be adjusted.
“I think you can read between the lines,” Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said in French during a COVID-19 briefing later Monday.
“When Mr. Trudeau said we’re going to be there for Canadians, it means something is going to be announced, but we want to do things properly, so it’s not only a matter of extended or adjusting… That’s why we still need a few more hours or a few more days so we can make sure Canadians understand what Mr. Trudeau said this morning — that we’re going to be there to take care of everyone, including those facing economic challenges.”
Duclos acknowledged that “economic circumstances” have changed over the last few weeks. While the situation has changed, so, too, will the CERB, he said.
He said the CERB will “adapt to the current context” and that the changes will “focus on new parameters.”
Duclos added that “the time has arrived to think about transitioning” from the program but that it’s important to keep it going in some capacity for the time being.
He provided no further details about how the program may end but said the government is working on making sure technology supports that transition when it comes time.
For the NDP to support a massive government spending proposal, due in the House of Commons on Wednesday, the party’s leader said an extension to the CERB is a must.
Jagmeet Singh said earlier Monday that he believes negotiations between the parties will avert a potential non-confidence vote.
— with files from Global News’ Beatrice Britneff and the Canadian Press