Applications open for $300-a-week COVID-19 benefit in most provinces and territories

Click to play video: 'Some Canadian provinces reduce COVID-19 isolation periods'
Some Canadian provinces reduce COVID-19 isolation periods
WATCH: Some Canadian provinces reduce COVID-19 isolation periods – Dec 30, 2021

Applications are now open for the expanded Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, the government said Thursday after adding most provinces and territories to the eligibility list.

The benefit, announced in November but expanded on Dec. 22, allows any worker to apply for the support if their workplace has been slapped with capacity-limiting restrictions of 50 per cent or more amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible workers can receive $300 — $270 after taxes — for each one-week period until May 7, 2022. The expanded eligibility, however, only applies until Feb. 12, 2022.

Who is eligible for COVID benefits?

To get the benefit, workers will also need to have lost 50 per cent or more of their income as a result of these capacity limits, according to the government.

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Earlier this month, no province or territory met the criteria for residents to apply for the benefit, despite several of them having introduced new public health restrictions by then to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

The eligibility list now includes every province and territory that has reduced capacity for bars, restaurants and other workplaces: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut.

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National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said in a statement Thursday that the government will expand eligibility to remaining regions once similar measures are introduced there. Officials in Saskatchewan and Yukon have publicly stated they would not introduce restrictions during the holiday season.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Freeland discusses details, qualifications for $300-a-week benefit'
COVID-19: Freeland discusses details, qualifications for $300-a-week benefit

Bill C-2, which brought this new benefit to life, became law on Dec. 17. The benefit is the government’s latest temporary income support for Canadians who can’t work because of the pandemic. It follows past programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB).

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How to apply for COVID benefits

The government’s website says the “easiest way” to apply for the CWLB is online, through “CRA My Account.” People can also apply via phone.

The CWLB, however, does not renew automatically and Canadians who qualify are expected to reapply each week.

The number of confirmed active cases nationwide has now surged to over 230,000 thanks to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. On the day the benefit’s expansion was announced last week, there were about 72,000.

Further restrictions have been enacted by some provinces since then. On Thursday, Quebec reintroduced a nighttime curfew to try to curb the spike in COVID-19 cases, which surpassed 14,000 the same day.

Nunavut imposed a “circuit-breaker” lockdown on Christmas Eve after the Omicron variant was detected there among a surge in cases, while the Atlantic provinces have scaled back capacity limits on most businesses and gatherings.

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Thanks to the language of Bill C-2, the government was able to immediately expand its COVID-19 benefits in reaction to these new restrictions — without having to pass any new legislation. As part of C-2, the government gave itself regulatory authorities that allowed it to temporarily expand the definition of a “lockdown,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland explained last week.

She said they expanded that definition to include capacity limits of 50 per cent or more.

“These expanded federal support measures will ensure that provinces and public health authorities across the country can continue to make the right difficult decisions they need to make to save lives,” Freeland said.

“The federal government will be there to financially support workers and businesses as we finish this fight.”

–With files from Rachel Gilmore

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