Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says thousands of people have already successfully applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) within the first few hours of the online portal opening for applications Monday.

In his daily address to Canadians, Trudeau said that over 240,000 people have managed to navigate the system and complete applications as the government aims to get financial aid to Canadians struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anticipating high volumes of applicants at the onset of the launch, the Canada Revenue Agency and federal government limited Monday’s eligible applicants to people born in January, February or March.

“For everyone else, you’ll be able to apply another day this week, depending on your birth month,” said Trudeau during his address from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa. “We know you need the support as soon as possible. We have to make sure the system works for everyone.”

An online application portal can be found at canada.ca or, for those who cannot apply online, you can call 1-800-959-2041. The widespread understanding is that applicants will receive money by direct deposit within 3-5 days of applying or by a cheque in the mail within 10 days.

For successful applicants, the CERB program will provide them with $2000 per month over the next four months. It is available to Canadian workers over the age of 15 who have earned at least $5,000 over the past year. The other requirement is you must have lost all income over at least 14 consecutive days in the last month. Anyone who has already applied for Employment Insurance prior to April 6 does not need to reapply.

Although money from the new benefit will begin flowing to Canadians as soon as this week, others won’t meet the outlined qualifications, therefore being deemed ineligible, and that has generated concerns over their benefit ineligibility, which Trudeau acknowledged.

“There are some people, who don’t yet qualify, who we do need to help,” said Trudeau.

According to the Prime Minister of Canada, if you are working reduced hours – down to 10 hours per week or less – there will be an upcoming announcement for how you can qualify for government aid. This includes contract workers or volunteer firefighters.

Also, Trudeau outlined that there will be more news coming for anyone who is still working, but making less than they would if they were enrolled in the benefit plan. He pointed to homecare workers or long-term care facility workers looking after vulnerable seniors as part of the group that falls under this category.

Lastly, the Prime Minister highlighted post-secondary students who might be graduating or moving into the workforce this summer. He said that work is underway in order to get support to these individuals soon in order to bridge the gap.

“For people in all of these situations, we see you. We’re going to be there for you and we’re working as hard as we can to get you the support you need,” said Trudeau.

Although the CERB is now live, the current relief measures geared towards businesses are still being ironed out. This includes the 75% wage subsidy program that aims at allowing Canadian businesses to keep employees on the payroll.

“Right now, we’re drafting legislation and talking to other parties ahead of bringing parliament back to put the wage subsidy in place as quickly as possible,” added Trudeau. He suggested that Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau will have more updates regarding the wage subsidy soon.

In addition, Trudeau recognized a new initiative put forward by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the federal government called the Canadian Business Resilience Network. According to the Chamber, the program is meant to help businesses get through this by “executing a coordinated, business-led, inclusive campaign with the overarching goals of mitigating the impact of the pandemic on our economy, our communities and our citizens and positioning the business community to help drive Canada’s economic recovery.”

During Trudeau’s address, he also thanked banks and credit unions who have agreed to cut interest rates in half for people who have been affected by the crisis.

 

Graham Cox