Updated at 6:15 p.m. (EDT): A new streamlined version of support funding for people affected by the economic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, but it won’t result in payments until at least April 16.
The new Emergency Response Benefit combines the previously announced COVID-19 care benefit and support benefit and amounts to $52 billion.
Anyone who needs income because of COVID-19—people who have been laid off, taking care of loved ones, or are sick themselves—will be eligible for $2,000 per month for four months.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the fund will also help people who are still employed by companies that are currently unable to pay their staff.
Payments will start about 10 days after people submit their applications.The earliest the portal will launch is April 6, Trudeau said, meaning Canadians won’t get paid until at least April 16.
“The hard truth is people are out of work because of this crisis and they’re worried about what comes next,” Trudeau said.
The move coincides with Parliament passing new emergency legislation, which now allocates $107 billion, the $52 billion in direct relief payments and $55 billion in tax deferrals for Canadians who are affected by COVID-19.
Trudeau also said student debt payments will be put on hold for three months, but the actual legislation freezes payment for six.
Travellers now mandated to stay home
As of midnight on Wednesday,anyone who has travelled will have to stay at home in quarantine for two weeks.
It will be a “legal obligation” for Canadians entering the country to self-isolate, said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Essential workers are excluded from the order and will be allowed to get back to work as soon as they return to Canada, Freeland said.
She did not say how the government will enforce the announcement, but noted that officials will flag contact information for all Canadians passing through the border.
Ontario announces $17B to fight COVID-19
On Wednesday, the Ontario government announced $17 billion in funding, split between direct funding and tax deferrals, to fight the COVID-19 crisis.
A total of $7 billion will go towards direct funding, with almost half earmarked for the healthcare system, including a $1 billion contingency fund depending on how hard Ontarians are affected.
Direct financial aid for people who can’t work or have been laid off as a result of the ongoing pandemic is also included, as well as a one-time payment of $200 per child ($250 for children with special needs) for Ontario families now that schools and daycares are closed.
An additional $10 billion will support people and businesses through tax deferrals.
B.C. announces renter supports
B.C. Premier John Horgan announced new supports for renters Wednesday afternoon, including a $500 monthly supplement for British Columbians who can prove they've experienced a drop in income, and a moratorium on evictions and rent increases.
Though Horgan said he couldn't promise the funds would be delivered in time for April 1, the premier said a simple online application process is already in the works.
Almost 1 million Canadians apply for EI
Nearly 1 million Canadians applied for EI last week. That accounts for about 5 percent of Canada’s workforce.
A new Angus Reid poll released Wednesday found that 44 percent of Canadian households say they’ve either lost work or have seen others get laid off. Another 18 percent of households anticipate they’ll also receive layoff notices.
First round of funding approved after long debate
A select few MPs who returned to the House of Commons on Tuesday approved an $82 billion relief for Canadians hit particularly hard economically by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) after a day of deliberation.
The bill is expected to move to the senate for a vote on Wednesday, before its immediate royal assent.
Opposition MPs had pushed back against legislation introduced by the Liberal government on Monday that would effectively give Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet power to tax and spend without parliamentary approval until December 2021.
Parliamentary talks continued late into the night, according to tweets by MPs who were present, but a consensus had been reached by early Wednesday morning.
“Great news. Power grab defeated,” Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said in a tweet.
According to Poilievre, the government can’t raise taxes without a parliamentary vote, and emergency spending powers will end in six months, as opposed to 21 months, and can be taken away. An opposition-controlled finance committee will host COVID-19 hearings and can recall parliament with 48 hours notice if Trudeau’s government “abuses power,” he said.
NDP leader Jagmeet SIngh said he’s happy Ottawa approved the relief package, which includes suspended student loan payments, extended tax deadlines, more money for health care, and a new emergency relief fund akin to employment insurance that will help Canadians who aren’t eligible for EI, including gig workers and freelancers.
More than 3,000 COVID-19 cases, 27 deaths
As of Wednesday afternoon, Canada had more than 3,000 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, with 27 recorded deaths. In B.C. nine long-term care homes have been linked to outbreaks resulting in 14 deaths—the most in the country. Every province as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories are affected and in a state of emergency. Nunavut, which restricted movement in and out of its borders on Monday, is the only region in Canada without a reported COVID-19 case. Here is the breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across Canada:
British Columbia: 662
Newfoundland and Labrador: 67
New Brunswick: 26
Nova Scotia: 68
Prince Edward Island: 3
Northwest Territories: 1
There are more than 370,000 COVID-19 cases globally, with more than 16,000 deaths. Cases across the world keep escalating as the virus continues to spread and testing in many countries ramps up.
—With files from Sarah Berman
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