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Coronavirus: CERB to be extended by 8 weeks, Trudeau says

Federal government extends CERB by 8 weeks
WATCH: Federal government extends CERB by 8 weeks

The federal government will be extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) eligibility period by eight weeks as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Trudeau made the announcement during his daily press briefing at Rideau Cottage Tuesday morning.

“If you’ve been getting the CERB and you still can’t work because you’re unable to find a job or it’s just not possible, you will keep getting that $2,000 a month over the next few weeks,” he said.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says his government is working to keep CERB payments
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says his government is working to keep CERB payments

The federal government opened applications for the aid program on April 6.

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Trudeau said moving forward, the government is looking at “international best practices” and will “monitor the economy and the progression of the virus to see what changes, if any, need to be made to the program so that more people are properly supported.”

He said the Canadian economy is recovering slowly from the mass closures ordered to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus but said there is a long way to go.

READ MORE: Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada

“This pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for our country and we’re going to make sure that all of our supports, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and employment insurance, are working effectively to get Canadians back on their feet,” he said.

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Extending the CERB has been a demand from the New Democrats in exchange for the party’s support for the minority Liberals in an upcoming confidence vote.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces 8-week extension to CERB eligibility benefits
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces 8-week extension to CERB eligibility benefits

Asked by reporters how much the extension is expected to cost, Trudeau said they will share “detailed figures” with the finance committee.

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But, he said the government hopes as the economy reopens, fewer people will need to access the benefit.

Trudeau said more companies are re-hiring their employees with help from the wage subsidy program.

“We hope that the cost will go down,” Trudeau said in French. “However, we will have more detailed projections for you shortly.”

Speaking at a press conference later on Tuesday, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, said the CERB will continue to be available until Oct. 3.

READ MORE: Organized crime, identity thieves targeting CERB, Parliamentary committee told

“In that time period, workers will now have 24 weeks of the CERB available to them,” she said.

However, Qualtrough said the benefit was never meant to be a long-term solution and noted that the number of Canadians who are accessing the benefit are already dropping as people return to work or switch to the wage subsidy program.
At what cost? The financial impact of extending CERB
At what cost? The financial impact of extending CERB

Asked about the costs of the program, Qualtrough said as of the beginning of June the cost of the CERB was estimated around $44 billion.

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“And we know at its height we had eight million people on the survey. It was averaging about 17 billion dollars per month,” she said.

But, Qualtrough said the government expects those numbers to continue to drop in the coming months.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says Canada-U.S. border measures extended to July 21
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says Canada-U.S. border measures extended to July 21

Trudeau also announced Canada and the U.S. have agreed to extend the current border closure until July 21.

— With a file from Global News’ Rachael D’Amore and The Canadian Press