Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured struggling and laid-off workers that they will be able to access new emergency benefits within 10 days of applying.
People who have been laid off, those who are sick, caretakers and self-employed workers can receive up to $2,000 a month for four months, the prime minister said Wednesday.
Already, the government has processed 143,000 applications.
The federal government will increase its $27 billion in direct assistance to Canadians to $52 billion amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Wednesday.
With governments implementing stiff restrictions aimed at slowing the epidemic and avoiding crushing an already stressed health-care system, an unprecedented number of people have seen layoffs and job losses over the past week. Close to one million new applications for employment insurance have been reported, much higher than average.
The brutal jobs reality was apparent in a new poll: Close to half of those asked reported they or someone in their house had lost work because of the outbreak. Another 18 percent of Canadians polled by the Angus Reid Institute showed as many said they expected to lose work soon.
More than half who said they had lost work said their employers were not compensating them and as many said trying to get employment insurance had proven difficult.
New benefits for workers who can’t be paid because of COVID-19, whether it’s because they have to stay home to self-isolate or look after someone else, or because the business can’t afford to pay them, will flow likely by April 6, said Morneau. A $300 top up for each child under the Canada Child Benefit and an increase in GST rebates can’t go out until May, he said.
“There aren’t faster ways to get money into Canadians hands,” he told the Senate, when queried about why the government wasn’t getting money to people quicker.
Morneau said many times this bill is really just the first step to keep Canadians and the economy as healthy as possible in the midst of a crisis nobody has ever seen before. He said everyone wants to know the depth of the economic hurt, how long it will last and whether it will come in waves.
The mass layoffs resulting from the restrictions have left numerous people without paycheques as April 1 looms. Residential tenants and landlords have called on the federal and provincial governments to offer some kind of relief before rent cheques are due. Manitoba has suspended rent increases and joined several other provinces in effectively halting evictions due to non-payment of rent.
FWH Editor, Toronto, March 25, 2020