Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has revealed the details of the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) that is dedicated to those directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The benefit, announced on Wednesday, has combined the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit in an effort to streamline the entire process.
According to Trudeau, the CERB will provide $2000 per month for the next four months to workers who have lost their income as a result of COVID-19.
“If you’ve lost your job because of COVID-19, whether you are full-time, contract or self-employed this new benefit will be there for you. If you’re sick or quarantined, looking after someone sick or at home taking care of your kids, it’s there for you. Even if you’re still employed but not receiving income because of this crisis, the CERB is there for you,” said Trudeau at a press conference outside of Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.
The Prime Minister of Canada suggests that an online application portal should be up and running as soon as possible and he indicated that money should take around 10 days after applying to begin flowing.
Trudeau acknowledged that despite the difficulties citizens are having in getting through to the government online or over the phone, public servants will get to all applications.
“In order to speed things up, we are rapidly deploying workers from different departments in order to deal with claims,” said Trudeau. “In the last 10 days, we’ve boosted the team by close to 13,000 people in order to take your calls, review your claims and get you the support you need.”
According to Trudeau, since last Monday they’ve processed 143,000 Employment Insurance claims from Canadian residents.
In a separate press conference on Wednesday morning, Finance Minister Bill Morneau pointed to April 6 as the date that the online application portal would be live to the public and Trudeau confirmed that timeline.
“We need to make sure we are getting money out quickly, but also reliably and that means doing things the government hasn’t done before and scaling up our processes extremely quickly. We are hopeful that the system will be up and running by the 6th of April and hope cheques or direct deposits will be flowing days after that.”
When concerns were expressed that the current timeline would mean some Canadians not receiving money until the middle of April, Trudeau expressed that they were looking at alternatives to help fill those two weeks.
“We recognize that that is a ways off still and there are people who stopped working a week and a half ago that are now receiving their last paycheque and not knowing when the next money is coming in. We recognize that and are looking for ways to help people bridge through credit or other measures in order to make it to the arrival of the CERB,” said Trudeau.
The new benefit will provide applicants with funds for 16 weeks.
“Help is on the way,” Trudeau emphasized in reference to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
In addition to the CERB, Trudeau continued to drive home the importance of social distancing, while encouraging people who are feeling isolated to stay connected virtually.
“We’re facing a once in a generation challenge and on top of that, you can’t do many of the things that keep you feeling good like getting together with your friends or having dinner with your neighbor. If you need help, reach out. To your neighbour, to a sibling, to a friend, to a hotline, but do it from home. Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to.”
Trudeau’s national address followed an early morning announcement that the House of Commons had unanimously voted on the proposed $82 billion economic relief package, passing it onwards to the Senate.