Government Expanding Access to CERB and Support for Essential Workers

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OTTAWA — The federal government has announced plans to expand eligibility for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). These changes are intended to better support those who need help but don’t qualify for the CERB, as well as Canadians working in essential jobs who make less than they would if they received the benefit.

“This is an extremely difficult time for all Canadians and we need to make sure essential workers have the support they need so they can continue to do the critical work we all rely on,” says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Together, we’ll get through this difficult time.”

The eligibility changes will allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting CERB. The benefit will also be extended to seasonal workers who have exhausted their regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits and don’t have access to their usual seasonal work because of COVID-19, as well as to workers who recently exhausted their EI and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.

“[This] announcement recognizes that many Canadian workers who did not qualify for the CERB were still in need of financial assistance — which is why we have worked hard to expand the eligibility criteria to be more inclusive,” says Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.

The federal government has also acknowledged the particular demands the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on low-income workers in certain sectors, including those on the frontline in hospitals and nursing homes, those ensuring the integrity of the food supply chain or providing essential retail services to Canadians. Because the salaries of these essential workers are often similar or less than what they would receive from the CERB, the government announced it will work with provinces and territories through a new transfer to cost-share a temporary top-up to the salaries of workers who make less than $2,500 a month and are deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19. Details regarding the application and delivery of this measure have been promised soon.

“The measures we’re introducing today will ensure they are properly compensated for their efforts and ensure workers who have lost income as a result of the pandemic get the help they need through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit,” says Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance.

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