Trudeau combines emergency COVID-19 aid benefit for Canadians

OTTAWA —
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the government is merging two previously announced employment insurance benefits for Canadians who are out of, or off work because of COVID-19.

He is also vowing that more financial assistance will come as the pandemic wages on, with the first $82-billion aid package set to flow as soon as it passes Parliament on Wednesday. 

The new benefit combines the Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit — into the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and will provide up to $2,000 a month for the next four months for people who are off work and without an income as a result of the novel coronavirus. 

Trudeau said this benefit will aid Canadians who have either lost their job or are off sick or taking care of their children because of COVID-19. He said that Canadians should receive this assistance approximately 10 days after applying.

“We’ll be there to help you,” Trudeau said, adding that the federal government is doing everything it can to help those worried about paying bills, including boosting the teams processing the ballooning number of claims that have already been filed.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau told the Senate on Wednesday that this emergency benefit should begin to roll out in early April, while other top-ups will be available in May, but that the government is doing what it can to get money to the Canadians that need it as quickly as possible under such an unprecedented situation. 

“Clearly the systems were not built for this type of stress and strain,” Morneau told senators.  

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to climb Canada-wide, Trudeau addressed the nation in what’s become a daily appointment outside his residence.

Trudeau is nearing the end of his 14-day self-isolation at Rideau Cottage, after his wife is one of the now 2,792 people in Canada who have contracted the virus.

An equal number of Canadians who have tested positive for COVID-19 contracted the virus within their communities and from travel, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam announced on Tuesday. She called this a “fundamental shift” in the transmission of the disease within Canada.

In an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic, every province and territory has declared some form of public health crisis or state of emergency and officials continue to urge Canadians to stay at home as much as possible. 

As part of this push to shut down most aspects of society and ensure people can be away from work or home with their kids who aren’t in school right now, the federal government rolled out an $82 billion fiscal aid package that passed the House early Wednesday morning and is set to pass the Senate by the afternoon.

Speaking there, Finance Minister Bill Morneau called the novel coronavirus pandemic a crisis “unlike any we have ever faced.”

While the Canadian border is closed to non-essential travel from the United States and the remaining international flights being funnelled through four airports with enhanced screening, the federal government is continuing to work with airlines to bring home Canadians who are stuck abroad.

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