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Ottawa announces new $2,000 benefit to help Canadians cope with the coronavirus

(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new financial measures to help Canadians affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes people who’ve lost their jobs, are quarantined, caring for someone with COVID-19, and for parents who have to stay home to take care of their kids.

The new system replaces the Emergency Care Benefit and the the Emergency Support Benefit to streamline benefits for those whose qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) and those who don’t. The Prime Minister says nearly a million people applied for EI last week and the system wasn’t designed to handle such a heavy load.

The Prime Minister says he understand people are concerned about delays.

“Families are worried about when they’ll get help. It can be hard to get through on the line, and that is frustrating.” he said during a news conference.

“Public servants are working around the clock, while dealing with unprecedented demand and all of the same personal stress everyone else is facing. They will get to your application.”

Anyone already receiving benefits does not need to apply for CERB.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said CERB will be up and running by April 6th during a news conference. Payments begin 10 days after application every four weeks. CERB will be available until October 3rd.

An online portal to apply will be set up through the government of Canada’s website.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business welcomed the announcement and called it a step forward.

“We are particularly pleased that the federal government has indicated an employer will not have to lay off a worker to allow them to qualify for the benefit,” said Dan Kelly, CFIB president, in a release.

“How this will operate in practice remains a question employers will need quickly resolved.”

But CFIB says CERB doesn’t replace the what they say is a need to increase the 10 per cent wage subsidy to 75 per cent of wages for all employers, up to a cap of $5,000 per worker per month.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

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