Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2020 11:19 a.m. EDT
Last updated Tuesday, June 16, 2020 at 6:26 p.m. EDT
OTTAWA – The federal government will provide an additional eight weeks of benefits to people whose jobs or incomes have disappeared due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but only if they seek work and accept jobs when it is reasonable to do so. make.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will continue to pay $500 a week, but now for up to 24 weeks instead of 16 for people who have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced due to the pandemic.
The first cohort of applicants who signed up in April are expected to max out their payment periods in early July, fearing that some will not have jobs to return to and others unable to work because their health is precarious.
“Even if our economy reopens, there are many, many more people out of work (or) ready to work than there are jobs available and that will be the story for the weeks to come as well,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing the extension.
He added that the government will look at international best practices to determine what further changes will be needed.
the ECP has paid out $43.51 billion to 8.41 million people as of June 4, a request that has forced an increase in its budget to $60 billion from $35 billion just weeks ago.
At its peak, the ECP paid out $17 billion a month as eight million people benefited, but the numbers declined as 1.2 million recipients returned to work or resumed their jobs with help from the federal wage subsidy program.
Heavy spending by the federal government, along with unprecedented measures by Canada’s central bank, has helped stabilize the economy and should support a recovery, Canada’s new central banker told the Commons Finance Committee later in the day.
“We cannot change the fact that the pandemic has resulted in a very serious recession, the most serious in our lifetime. The best we can do is do everything we can to get the rebound off the ground,” Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said.
“What we really want to avoid is a non-recovery. That will create huge problems and that’s why these measures are so important.
In the future, the wording of the declaration that recipients must make to obtain ECP payments will indicate that applicants are actively seeking employment and will accept an offer of employment when their situation permits, as in the case of Employment Insurance benefits.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said workers with childcare or elderly care responsibilities, or those showing symptoms of COVID-19, may not be able to work and may retain their use. ECP to access.
“We can’t force someone to take a job,” Qualtrough said, “but we do encourage and say that through attestation, people are actively looking for a job and taking it when it’s reasonable. in their situation to do so.”
Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labor Congress, warned that the wording could still be problematic as job prospects are minimal.
“We are living through a pandemic and we need to take this with a serious understanding that this is going to impact anyone’s ability to actively seek work,” he said in an interview.
Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, wrote on Twitter that it was “too early to end ECPbut said changes to help workers retain some of ECP payments, even if they earn more than the $1,000 per month income threshold, can alleviate the rehiring problems employers say they face.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault, speaking in St-Georges in the Beauce region of his province, suggested he would discuss with Trudeau a formula for people to collect ECP when he returns to work.
“We understand that these people who have lost their jobs want help from the government,” he said in French, “but we have to find a way where there is still an incentive to revive the economy and that as many people as possible are going back to work.” as soon as possible.”
An extension will increase the cost of the benefit, but Trudeau did not provide an estimate Tuesday.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer, in a report released last week, estimated that expanding the maximum number of weeks of eligibility from 16 to 28 and extending the program to January 2021 would cost around $57.9 billion. .
Extend the ECP was a demand from New Democrats in exchange for the party’s support for the minority Liberals in an upcoming vote of confidence. On Wednesday there will be a debate in the House of Commons on the Supplementary Spending Estimates which detail about $81 billion in spending already approved and about $6 billion more in measures requiring approval.
Budget director Yves Giroux noted in a morning report that a number of measures promised by the government are not included in the tally, leaving an incomplete picture of how much the government will spend on COVID-19 relief. 19.
Excluded from the estimates are details of the costs of the $45 billion wage subsidy program, as it is delivered through the tax system, and a small and medium-sized business loan program that will open applications to a largest number of businesses on Friday.
Giroux warned it will be difficult to get answers on the estimates from federal officials as MPs will only debate the estimates for four hours under a deal struck last month by a majority of lawmakers. .
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 16, 2020.
– With files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal