CERB payments to be extended for 2 more months
The Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) is being extended by two more months, even as the government encourages people to look for jobs and to go back to work when it’s possible to do so. CERB has provided taxable payments of $2,000 for up to four months to Canadians who lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 16, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the financial supports will be extended for eight weeks for those who still can’t work as provinces and territories gradually reopen their economies. “The reality is that there are three million people out of work who are looking for work, and even as our economy is reopening, there are many, many more people out of work, willing to work, than there are jobs available,” he said.
A draft bill placed conditions on CERB payments requiring recipients to actively look for work and to not turn down reasonable work opportunities. That legislation did not pass, but Trudeau said that the government will find ways to encourage people to work when they are able.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said CERB recipients for the new phase will be required to sign an attestation acknowledging the government is encouraging them to look for work and to consult with the government’s job bank. “We know that Canadians are eager and ready to do their part. We expect that workers will be seeking work opportunities or returning to work when their employer reaches out to them, provided they are able and it is reasonable for them to do so,” she said.
The government has been encouraging employers to apply for the wage subsidy program, which covers 75% of an employee’s pay, up to $847 a week. More than 223,000 employers have applied for the Canada emergency wage subsidy to cover 2.6 million employees across the country, Qualtrough said. “While the CERB has been helping millions of Canadian workers get through this difficult time, we know that this benefit is not a long-term solution,” she said. “We are moving from a phase in the pandemic where we were asking everyone to stay home, to a phase where workers are going back to work when it is safe and possible for them to do so.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh had called on the government to extend CERB for at least four months. “Millions of Canadians have been worried about how they will pay their bills this summer. The government can’t put people in this situation again come August. Over the weeks ahead, we need a long-term plan to repair EI so that it is finally designed to continue to support workers that can’t go back to work and still need help,” he said in a statement. “The prime minister says he has heard us and is extending support through CERB through the summer. This is what we were calling for in the short term. We’ll keep working to make sure help is there for Canadians who need it in the long term.”
Conservative employment critic MP Dan Albas called on the government to make “simple changes” that would help those ineligible for CERB. He said there should also be built-in incentives for people to work whenever possible. “As businesses start having shifts to fill, Canadians should not be penalized for returning to work. But that’s exactly how the Liberals’ programs are structured. Earning more than $1,000 a month results in a worker losing their entire benefit,” he said. “That is why Conservatives have called on the government to make the CERB more flexible so that no one is worse off going back to work or picking up a shift.” Employees who make more than $1,000 a month are no longer eligible for CERB. The Conservatives have called for a scaled approach that would allow people to collect a percentage of CERB while working more hours.
Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) Accepting More Applications
Trudeau also announced that the government will start accepting new applications for the Canada emergency business account (CEBA) starting June 19. The government has expanded program eligibility to include sole proprietors and farmers. Now, small businesses with payrolls between $20,000 and $1.5 million, sole proprietors receiving business income directly, and family-owned corporations that pay through dividends will be eligible. The program offers government-backed loans of up to $40,000, interest-free until the end of 2022, administered by banks. The government has said it will forgive 25% of such loans, up to $10,000, for those who pay their loans back on time.
Food Surplus Program Opens
Applications for the surplus food program opened on June 15. The $50-million program will see the government buy large quantities of surplus products and redistribute them to areas where food insecurity is an issue, to avoid throwing out food and to allow the producers to still be compensated. Fishers or farmers who can’t sell their harvest can apply and the federal government will send the surplus to northern communities or food banks.
“No one could have predicted that this spring would turn out the way it did. Certainly for farmers, who keep our grocery stores stocked and our families fed, it’s been an unexpectedly challenging few months,” Trudeau said. “Farmers will have people to buy their goods, and food will get to the plates of families who wouldn’t have enough otherwise.”
Canada- U.S. Border to Remain Closed to Non-Essential Travel Until July 21
The Canada-U.S. border will remain closed to non-essential travel for at least another 30 days to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus as confirmed cases in the United States continue to climb past the two million mark. The deal was set to expire on on June 21 but will now extend until July 21, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during his daily news conference on June 16. “This is an important decision that will keep people in both of our countries safe,” he said.
Both countries reached an agreement in March to temporarily close the border to non-essential travel — meaning no recreational visits — while keeping it open to commercial traffic and essential workers who cross the border for work, and has already extended the deal twice so far. During the week of June 8, the federal government announced it will now allow some immediate family members separated by the temporary COVID-19 travel restrictions to cross the border into the country.
The tweak applies to foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents and who do not have COVID-19 or are showing any signs or symptoms of the coronavirus, “or who do not have reason to believe they have COVID-19.” Anyone who enters the country will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally has surpassed eight million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 2.1 million of those cases are in the United States. There have been more than 437,000 deaths from COVID-19 around the world, with more than 116,000 of them in the U.S. In Canada, the number of confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases has surpassed 99,000, with 29,878 of them still active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,093 on the morning of June 16.