Details of new federal assistance for people unable to work due to COVID-19

The work of the labour movement and our allies is having an effect, as shown by the fact that the CERB is an improvement on earlier announcements. However, there is still more to do.

Ottawa (26 March 2020) — This week, the federal government announced plans for a Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to provide support for people who are unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB will provide $2,000 a month for up to 4 months for workers who are laid off or unable to work due to COVID-19.

More details will be announced, but based on what has been announced so far the following groups are eligible:

  • Workers who are laid off due to COVID-19, or workers who are still employed, but getting no income – this includes both workers who would normally apply for EI and workers who aren’t eligible for EI.
  • Contract or self-employed workers who have no work due to COVID-19.
  • People unable to work due to illness, quarantine, or looking after someone with COVID-19.
  • Parents looking after children who are sick, or whose daycares and schools are closed.

People can start to apply for the CERB in April

According to this week’s announcement from the Ministry of Finance, people can start to apply for the CERB online in early April when the portal for accessing it is available. There will also be an automated telephone line and a toll-free number.

Information about these has yet to be released.

This week’s announcement suggests that Canadians who are eligible for EI should continue to apply for EI for now.

Other measures also in place

The CERB is only one of a number of measures announced by the federal government in response to the pandemic. A complete list can be found on the government's website.

Legislation passed this week to respond to COVID-19

This week’s announcement came after Parliament passed legislation giving the federal government the power to spend what is needed to respond to the pandemic during the next 6 months. The need to get unanimous consent to get the legislation passed quickly appears to have affected the federal government’s plans to assist workers laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week’s announcement incorporated proposals from the NDP that were not part of what the federal government announced on March 18.

Labour and others continue to push for Canadians to be protected

The labour movement and others have been pushing the federal government to protect workers. This work is having an effect, as shown by the fact that the CERB is an improvement on earlier announcements. However, there is still more to do. The National Union will be continuing to fight to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t used as an excuse to leave workers behind.