Emergency coronavirus benefit could be a model for future aid programs: minister

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OTTAWA — The newly created benefit for workers whose livelihoods are affected by COVID-19 may be a model for how the federal government helps unemployed Canadians in the future, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said Thursday.

Dubbed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the $2,000-a-month taxable benefit will be available to any worker who earned $5,000 in the previous year and whose income drops to zero due to COVID-19.

Qualtrough says the government opted for the single benefit because the decades-old employment insurance system wasn’t designed to handle an economic shock where millions of workers wouldn’t qualify for assistance.

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Funded partially outside the EI system, the new benefit has pushed direct financial aid in the economic package to $52 billion, out of the $107 billion overall total.

Qualtrough said close to 10 per cent of EI-eligible workers have applied for help in just over a week and the labour crunch is likely to get worse.

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That works out to approximately 1.5 million workers.

But there are still more than five million workers — or almost one-quarter of the overall Canadian workforce — who aren’t eligible for EI, including because they may be self-employed, a gig worker, or don’t have enough qualifying hours.

5:27How COVID-19 impacts employees

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