Trudeau extends Canada Emergency Response Benefit by eight weeks

Trudeau extends Canada Emergency Response Benefit by eight weeks
Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government's signature benefit for people whose jobs have vanished amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended by eight weeks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the federal government will be extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit by another eight weeks.

During a daily press conference in Ottawa, the prime minister said his government’s signature benefit for people whose jobs have vanished amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be made available for Canadians who continue to feel the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re beginning to see across the country, that we are now in a place where we’re gradually and safely starting to reopen parts of the economy, but I am not going to sugar coat it, we still have a long journey ahead,” said Trudeau outside of Rideau Cottage on Tuesday.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has been paying Canadians $500 a week over the course of the pandemic and was slated to last 16 weeks. The initial wave of applicants had their cheques backdated to the middle of March, meaning that those people who signed up for it immediately would see their benefits run out soon.

“So if you’ve been getting the CERB and you still can’t work because you’ve been unable to find a job or it’s just not possible, you will keep getting that $2000 per month,” said the prime minister.

Trudeau suggests that his government will now be assessing the landscape of the government aid programs in an effort to best adapt them, if at all, as the economy moves forward.

“Over the next few weeks, our government will look at international best practices and monitor the economy and the progression of the virus to see what changes, if any, need to be made to the program so that more people are properly supported,” added Trudeau.

Extending the CERB has been a demand from the New Democrats in exchange for the party’s support for the minority Liberals in an upcoming confidence vote.

An extension will add to the cost of the benefit, which has already paid out $43.51 billion as of June 4 and carries a budget of $60 billion.

Trudeau didn’t provide a figure today, but says the government’s hope is that fewer people will need the CERB as restrictions ease and businesses reopen.

In a press conference last week, the prime minister said fines or jail time would not be given to anyone who mistakenly applied for the CERB or accidentally claimed it while also receiving the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) from their employer. The Liberals are still pushing for “concrete measures” to punish any fraudster who took advantage of the government benefits during the health crisis, however, a motion was rejected by the Opposition in the House of Commons.

Tuesday’s extension marks the first one of the CERB since the start of the pandemic.

With files to Canadian Press.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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