The federal government plans to transition recipients of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to the Employment Insurance (EI) program as the $80-billion coronavirus aid program wraps up this fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.
Ottawa will also create a “transitional, parallel benefit” that is similar to EI for people who don’t qualify for the unemployment benefit, such as contract and gig workers.
“It will include access to training, and being able to work more hours and earn more money while receiving the benefit,” Trudeau said.
“We intend to cover every Canadian who is looking for work with a better, 21st-century EI system.”
The last scheduled CERB pay period is set to end on Sept. 26. The taxable, personal income benefit — launched in early April — provides $2,000 every four weeks to eligible applicants who lost work or their jobs due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as of mid-March.
The federal government later extended the duration of the CERB program through the summer. Eligible applicants can claim the benefit for a maximum of six, four-week periods.
According to the government’s website, Ottawa has transferred $62.75 billion to 8.46 million unique applicants as of July 26.
Trudeau said more details about “what will come after the CERB” will be released in the following weeks.
He added that the government will also set up a “sickness and caregivers benefit” for individuals who contract the virus — or have a family member who did — and don’t have coverage through their job.
EI system is ‘ready,’ employment minister says
Speaking at a news conference later on Friday, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said the EI system is equipped to take in around four million applications at the beginning of September.
Qualtrough said the system wasn’t set up to handle that volume of applications in mid-March when the pandemic hit and unemployment surged. But officials have “worked tirelessly” since then to automate, streamline and simplify “intake procedures,” she said.
“We are very confident now the system is ready,” Qualtrough told reporters, adding the system has been “tested and tried.”
The prime minister on Friday pledged that EI premiums won’t be increased “during this challenging time.”
Trudeau also announced that Ottawa is extending the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program through the month of August.
As of July 30, the small-business rent support program has doled out $613 million in financial aid to 63,000 tenants, according to a news release from the finance department.
-With a file from The Canadian PressView link »