Emergency coronavirus benefit could be a model for future aid programs: minister

OTTAWA – The newly created benefit for workers whose livelihoods are affected by COVID-19 may be a model for h…

OTTAWA — The newly created benefit for workers whose livelihoods are affected by COVID-19 may be a model for how the federal government helps unemployed Canadians in the future, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said Thursday.

Dubbed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the $2,000-a-month taxable benefit will be available to any worker who earned $5,000 in the previous year and whose income drops to zero due to COVID-19.

Qualtrough says the government opted for the single benefit because the decades-old employment insurance system wasn’t designed to handle an economic shock where millions of workers wouldn’t qualify for assistance.

Funded partially outside the EI system, the new benefit has pushed direct financial aid in the economic package to $52 billion, out of the $107 billion overall total.

Qualtrough said close to 10 per cent of EI-eligible workers have applied for help in just over a week and the labour crunch is likely to get worse.

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That works out to approximately 1.5 million workers.

But there are still more than five million workers — or almost one-quarter of the overall Canadian workforce — who aren’t eligible for EI, including because they may be self-employed, a gig worker, or don’t have enough qualifying hours.

5:27How COVID-19 impacts employees

How COVID-19 impacts employees
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