New $2,000 benefit part of COVID-19 aid package

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the press outside Rideau Cottage on Wednesday, March 25./Facebook

The federal government’s multi-billion dollar aid package has been passed into law.

After a day of deliberations, the House of Commons passed what is now known as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and later in the evening it passed the Senate. The passing of the Covid-19 aid package was delayed by Conservative objections to certain elements introduced by the Liberals. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would back off of those elements.

One element of the newly passed $107 billion aid package is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit which combines the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.

“For businesses we moved very quickly to help them bridge through this time to help them get the liquidity they need at a time of crisis and significant slowdown in the economy,” Trudeau said in his daily press conference at Rideau Cottage on Wednesday.

“For people at home we recognize that loosening up rules around credit is also a possibility. We have taken actions on that, we know people are anxious, we know that their final paycheques from two weeks ago last week are starting to come in and they don’t know where the next one is coming. That’s why the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is going to flow as a way of giving them $2,000 every month for the next four months so that we can get through this together,” he explained.

He also explained that the government would be redeploying 1,300 staff to process the claims. The portal for accessing the CERB will be available in early April. The payments would begin within 10 days of application. It would be paid every four weeks and available from March 15 to October 20.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is a taxable benefit that would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. After negotiations it combined the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.

The CERB would cover people who lost their job, are sick, quarantined or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19. It will also cover working parents who stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school or daycare closures.

It would not apply to wager earners as well as contract workers and the self-employed who would not otherwise be eligible for EI.

Workers who are employed but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situations due to COVID-19 would also be eligible. This was put in place to help businesses keep employees as they navigate the situation and ensure they can resume operations quickly.

The EI system was not designed to process the nearly one million applications received in the last week at last report. In response, residents, whether they are EI-eligible or not, can receive the CERB.

Those who are already receiving EI and sickness benefits as of the announcement would continue to receive them and should not apply. If the EI benefits end before October 3 they could apply for the CERB once they stop if they are unable to return to work due to COVID-19. Anyone who has already applied and not had their EI processed do not have to reapply. Individuals who are eligible for EI and sickness benefits would still have access to their normal benefits if they are still unemployed after the 16-week period covered by the CERB.

The portal for accessing the CERB will be available in early April. The payments would begin within 10 days of application. It would be paid every four weeks and available from March 15 to October 20.