‘Help is on the way’: Trudeau merges benefits for out of work Canadians

Photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from Facebook.

Canadians out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic should start to receive financial help from the federal government within 10 days of applying for employment insurance (EI), according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

During his daily update on the coronavirus crisis outside of Rideau Cottage on Wednesday, Trudeau announced the government is merging two previously announced benefit packages – the Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit. Under the new benefit, dubbed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), those who have lost income as a result of COVID-19 will receive $2,000 a month for four months.

“If you have 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 are sick or quarantined, looking after someone sick or at home taking care of your kids, it is there for you. Even if you are still employed, but not receiving income because of this crisis, the CERB is there for you,” said Trudeau.

He reassured Canadians that public servants are “working around the clock” to process the unprecedented number of employment insurance applications. Since last Monday, 1,430,000 people have applied for financial assistance from the government.

“I know people are concerned about delays. Families are worried about when they will get help. It can be hard to get through on the line and that is frustrating,” said Trudeau. “[We] will get to your application. Help is on the way.”

As a way of dealing with the growing number of people applying for employment insurance, the federal government has shifted workers to boost the teams processing applications by 13,000 people.

Canadians who are already receiving regular employment insurance and sickness benefits do not need to reapply to the CERB.

The online portal to access the new benefit will be available in early April.

Trudeau said that Canadian laboratories are now testing roughly 10,000 people a day for COVID-19.

“That’s a huge increase in numbers in a very short period of time. And it’s because people across the country are working tirelessly to make it happen,” said Trudeau, who commended healthcare professionals for their work.

The prime minister wrapped up his remarks with another reminder to Canadians to continue to physically distance themselves from others.

“Our country is facing the greatest health-care crisis in its history,” said Trudeau. “It is not hard to do what we’re asking you to do. Just stay home. If you absolutely must go out, keep a two-metre distance between you and others. And if you are coming back from travel abroad, go directly home and stay there for at least 14 days. That applies to everyone.”

To date, 2,906 people in Canada have tested positive for COVID-19.