Feds Unveil $37B Support Programs

CBJ — Newly-appointed Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has announced a new direction in terms of supporting Canadians through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The new programs are expected to cost about $37 billion over the next year.

First, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit has been extended by another four weeks at a cost of $8 billion while the government transitions into two base programs — a restructured Employment Insurance program and a new recovery benefit for those who do not qualify for EI.

CERB was originally introduced because the Employment Insurance system was not technically capable of handling the large influx of applicants who suddenly found themselves unemployed due to the pandemic.

The government says many technological updates have been made to the online EI system and officials are confident it can now stand the additional load as people transition away from CERB. It’s expected about 4 million people will be part of the transition to EI or the new recovery benefit.

The updated EI program is slated to begin on September 27, three days after Parliament resumes following the prorogation by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Applicants will fill out forms online every two weeks, as opposed to once a month as they have done with the CERB to ensure they are continuing to look for work and are available to do so.

Canadians with 120 insurable hours across Canada can apply and receive a minimum payment of $400 per week, and a maximum of $573 per week, depending on past earnings. The EI can be claimed for between 26 and 45 weeks, depending on the amount of time worked prior to being laid off.

There is also a sickness and caregiver benefit worth $500 each for a period of two weeks.

The Canada Recovery Benefit and will be available for 26 weeks to Canadians who are self-employed or otherwise ineligible for EI but are willing to work but cannot due to the current economic climate. In order to qualify for the $400-a-week program, Canadians must be looking for work. They would need to repay $0.50 of every dollar earned above an annual net income of $38,000.

The deficit projection is now approaching $380 billion and could surpass $400 billion.