OTTAWA – The federal government plan to provide $2,000 a month to workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic has been passed in the House of Commons and received royal assent, an important step in helping Canadians cope with the pandemic, the prime minister said Thursday.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) that will provide additional aid for four months to affected Canadians is part of the COVID-19 aid package outlined in Bill C-13.
“We’re now talking about $107-billion to support people and businesses,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during his address on Thursday.
He introduced the CERB in his national address on March 25 and spoke about the benefits of the aid program again in his address on March 26.
“Whether you’re eligible for EI or not, that benefit is there to help you,” he said Thursday.
This taxable benefit replaced the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.
It’s aimed at Canadians who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, those who are sick, quarantined or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, and working parents who have to stay home to care for their children due to daycare and school closures, or sickness.
Workers who are still employed but not getting income because their jobs have been disrupted by COVID-19 are also covered under the CERB, and so are contract workers, wage earners, and self-employed individuals who aren’t eligible for EI.
Those whose EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, can apply for CERB once their EI ends if they can’t return to work because of the coronavirus.
The government will launch an online application portal “as soon as possible,” Trudeau said, adding that people will get their money within 14 days of applying.
In addition, the government is also temporarily increasing Canada Child Benefit Payments with a total of $2 billion in extra support. An additional $5.5 billion has also been allocated for GST credit payments to low-income Canadians. In addition, a six-month, interest-free moratorium has been implemented for Canada student loans.
“It’s clear that the pandemic is placing a lot of pressure on our healthcare system, employment insurance and particularly the government apparatus. But know that we’re doing everything we can to shorten the deadlines,” Trudeau said.
“I know the bills are piling up and pressure is mounting, and that concerns many, many families, rightly so. But we are working as quickly as possible to put money in your pockets.”
Noting that credit card payments are also a concern for many Canadians, Trudeau says Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been in talks with banks about credit card interest rates.
“At the same time we’re looking at, on our end, making credit more available and less expensive for Canadians to be able to make it through the next few months,” he said.
He also addressed a text scam in the name of the CERB and encourages Canadians to look at the government website for accurate information.
The government is taking a stronger stance on social distancing, invoking the Quarantine Act. A 14-day quarantine is now mandatory for travelers entering Canada.
“If you’ve just returned from abroad, you have to go home and stay home for 14 days. But some people have not been taking this seriously. They’re stopping by the grocery stores on the way home from the airport, they’re stopping by to see friends after being away for March break,” Trudeau said. “This kind of conduct is not just disappointing, it’s dangerous.”
With the Quarantine Act in place, travelers who don’t comply with the rules “could face serious fines or prison time,” Trudeau said.
To ensure supply for critical medical equipment for Canada and its allies, Trudeau says the government is helping companies in the country to retool and expand their manufacturing capabilities.
“We recognize from the very beginning that this is a global crisis that requires global cooperation if we are to keep all of us safe and if we are to keep Canadians safe. At the same time, I can assure everyone that the federal stockpiles have been sufficient to meet the needs of the provinces until this point,” he said. “In the coming days, we’ll be receiving millions of more items that are necessary across the country.”
He noted that it’s crucial to keep the supply chains moving, and gave a nod to frontline workers.
“Our ports, railways and trucks are vital to bringing in things we need. And I want to thank all the workers who are keeping our country moving,” Trudeau said.
The Prime Minister also appointed Kirsten Hillman as ambassador to the U.S. Hillman was “instrumental” in NAFTA negotiations and more recently, in talks to close the U.S. border while still allowing trade.