Federal government relaxing criteria for emergency response benefit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his daily news conference April 6, 2020. (via Facebook)

Canada is helping out even more groups affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his daily address on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that more people will now be eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The response benefit will be expanded to reach individuals who are currently still working but earning $1,000 or less a month, as well as those who have run out of employment insurance (EI) benefits since January 1.

“Maybe you’re a volunteer firefighter or a contractor who can pick up some shifts or you have a part-time job in a grocery store. Even if you’re still working or if you want to start working again, you probably need help making ends meet,” Trudeau said.

Additionally, the CERB will now be available to those who will be losing seasonal work due to the pandemic. The federal government is also throwing a lifeline to artists and creators who are struggling during this time.

“Culture venues are closed and work is rare,” said Trudeau. “Minister [Steven] Guilbeault has heard from artists who are asking that copyright for their work before the crisis happened not make them ineligible for the CERB.”

Trudeau said the federal government is also looking to boost the wages of essential workers across the country, including those in retirement and long-term care homes.

“These are the places where we look after our seniors and yet, they are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. This is something I want to address with the premiers during a discussion tomorrow evening,” explained Trudeau. “We must all do better. We must all show leadership to support those seniors who built this country. To begin with, our government will be working with the provinces and territories to increase the pay of our essential workers earning less than $2,500 a month. The same applies for long-term facilities workers.”

Trudeau said similar announcements are expected to come “very soon” regarding post-secondary students and businesses looking for assistance with commercial rent.

On Wednesday, the prime minister also shared an update on testing for the novel coronavirus.

According to Trudeau, Luminultra, a biotechnology company based out of New Brunswick, will be increasing production to supply enough COVID-19 tests chemicals to meet the weekly demand in all provinces.

“In the last few days, we received a new batch of swabs to make sure every province has the supplies they need to keep testing,” he said. “Whether its reagents or test kits, we are ensuring that Canada has the tools to fight this virus.”

In addition, Trudeau announced that the federal government is launching a new portal on the Government of Canada website to provide mental health resources and support to Canadians during the pandemic.