Senate committee recommends improvements to COVID-19 emergency programs

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The Senate finance committee says that significant gaps remain in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic despite efforts to adjust and improve emergency support programs in recent months.The upper house released an interim report on Tuesday recommending that the Liberal government make further improvements to existing programs and better plan what will happen when the benefits of COVID-19 are exhausted.

“The government’s response has likely prevented the financial devastation of millions of Canadians and averted what could have been a much worse economic crash,” said the report.

« [However], the committee is concerned that the government has not provided sufficient clarity to Canadians who will continue to be unemployed or who will not be able to find full-time employment and to businesses seeking to reopen. ”

The report says the federal government should clarify how it will continue to support Canadians who are unemployed or have insufficient hours once the benefits of COVID-19 to individuals are exhausted.

The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which pays $ 2,000 a month to people who have lost their jobs or have their hours reduced due to COVID-19, is currently scheduled to end in September.

More than 8.25 million people applied for this benefit and $ 54.7 billion was paid in direct payments as of July 5.

The Senate report recommends that the government consider reducing the amount paid to CERB recipients on a decreasing scale based on income rather than suddenly turning off the taps, which is currently scheduled for September 30.

Senators also say the government should “give full, fair and priority consideration” to a permanent basic income guarantee to help people meet their basic needs in the future.

Also known as guaranteed living income, the CERB-type allowance would replace a series of overlapping social support programs, many of which fall through the cracks, according to the report.

Senators also denounced the “lack of accountability and transparency” regarding public spending and said that Parliament should resume its normal procedures.

Parliamentarians meet for a special COVID-19 committee four times a week in the Commons, with a small number of Members of the House and the rest participating virtually.

“It is time to return to traditional procedures for parliamentary approval of public spending to ensure proper oversight of public spending,” the report recommends.

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