The federal government made several key announcements today concerning COVID-19 relief programs.
In mid-June, the Canadian government announced CERB would be extended to the end of the summer. With less than a month before the season comes to an end, the federal government has now begun to lay out what recipients should expect next.
With the $80-billion emergency response benefit winding down, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the government plans to move out-of-work Canadians into the employment insurance system.
Speaking Friday morning, Trudeau also said many people who don't qualify for CERB will gain access to a "transitional, parallel benefit" that is similar to EI.
“EI should cover every Canadian who is looking for work, and for those who don’t qualify for EI right now, like gig or contract workers, we will create a transitional, parallel benefit that is similar to Employment Insurance,” Trudeau said on Friday.
“No one will be left behind,” Trudeau promised.
Since it launched in April CERB has offered $500 a week, or $2,000 a month to those out of work due to COVID-19.
The most recent report indicates that as of July 26, the government had paid out $62.75 billion in benefits to 8.46 million unique applicants since its launch.
“We believe that the CERB has served its purpose, and the reason it was created is no longer the main focus of our efforts as a government,” Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough told reporters, adding that the government will be closely monitoring if people are actively seeking work.
Sickness Benefit Change
Trudeau also indicated support for those who are not covered at work if they or their loved ones get COVID-19 and they need to stay home. The federal government is working with the provinces and territories to ensure that every worker in Canada who needs the support can access 10 days of paid sick leave a year.
“We intend to cover every Canadian who is looking for work with a better, 21st century EI system,” Trudeau said, adding that there will not be an increase to EI premiums despite these coming changes to the program.
Rent Aid Extension
Finally, Trudeau also announced that the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance plan will be extended through the month of August.
“Over 700,000 employees have benefitted from the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance – people who have been able to keep their jobs because of the help businesses got through this program,” Trudeau said on Friday.
The rent relief program was rolled out during the peak of the pandemic, to lower base rent by up to 75 per cent for eligible small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19.
Commercial property owners have been offered forgivable loans to cover 50 per cent of their monthly rent payments. They will not have to pay back the loans so long as the property owner agrees to reduce eligible businesses’ rent by at least 75 per cent for the three months.