As requests to open the new Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) opened on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is working to make the program accessible to more people.
One of the main criticisms of CERB – which provides up to $ 500 per week to people who have lost their jobs or cannot work because of COVID-19 – is that it only applies to people who suddenly have zero income. This excludes entrepreneurs or shift workers who still have limited sources of income.
“Whatever your situation, we are committed to providing you with the help you need,” said Trudeau on Monday. “The emergency benefit is designed to help Canadians who need help now, but I know some people still need support and are not yet able to qualify. If your hours have been reduced, for example 10 hours or less, we will soon announce how you can benefit from CERB. We will also hear from people who earn less money now than they would with benefits. I am thinking, for example, of home workers or people who work in long-term care. “
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Trudeau said the government is also considering new programs for students.
The Prime Minister also welcomed the fact that the six major Canadian banks have cut credit card interest rates in half to help Canadians cope with the economic hardship of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trudeau said at his daily press conference on Monday that banks and some co-operatives had agreed to cut interest rates at the request of Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
Trudeau said the government hopes to “see more actions like this move forward because now is the time to think about each other, not the results.”
The Prime Minister has said that Mr. Morneau continues to work on refining the details of the multi-billion dollar wage subsidy program for large and small businesses, not-for-profit organizations and charities.
He said parliament will soon be called back to approve a law promulgating the new 75 percent wage subsidy. He did not announce a date for this, but said talks were underway with opposition parties.
The proposed Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy would provide employers with funds to cover 75 percent of wages up to a maximum of $ 847 per week. The government has said it could take another six weeks before the program is opened for applications.
The wage subsidy is an alternative to the Canadian emergency response benefit, which was opened for applications Monday morning. CERB will provide up to $ 500 per week for 16 weeks to people who have lost all their income due to COVID-19. To date, 240,000 people have applied to join the program on Monday morning, said Trudeau.
The federal government has announced $ 105 billion in direct support programs for individuals and businesses. Of this amount, the government forecasts that CERB will cost $ 24 billion and that the wage subsidy will cost $ 71 billion.
Trudeau said on Sunday that the government was working to fill the “gaps” in the announced income support programs.
Business groups are warning the government that many employers will not be eligible for the wage subsidy because of the terms of the program, and urge the government to relax conditions when final legislation is released.
The government plans to repeat last month’s practice of recalling a small number of MPs to Ottawa – about 32 of 338 MPs – to allow for physical distance. The deputies will be divided proportionally according to the position of the party.
Trudeau also said the government is seriously considering options for a virtual parliament so that members of parliament from across the country can continue to participate in parliamentary discussions even if air travel is discouraged.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said his party has regular discussions with the government and said he had met with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, and that Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen was in regular talks with the leader of the Pablo Rodriguez government.
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“There are conversations going on,” Scheer told reporters Monday in Regina. “I can tell you that, on our side, there is a spirit of good faith and openness to work with the government. We are taking them at their word right now, there will be no surprises in their legislation this time. “
Scheer said the practice of sitting in smaller numbers should be repeated more often to allow the opposition to question Trudeau and federal ministers on the government’s response to COVID-19. He also said that videoconferencing should be used to allow more committee meetings.
“We are calling for regular accountability and oversight sessions in the House of Commons. This is the best place to hold ministers accountable for their departments, “he said. “We believe the best place for this Team Canada approach is in the House of Commons and [Senate] Chamber where ministers can be held responsible for their decisions. “
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