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Feds promise new COVID-19 benefit to help gig economy, contract workers as CERB ends

Last Updated Jul 31, 2020 at 6:13 pm PDT

FILE - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference, Wednesday, July 8, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Summary

The federal government is promising to help out gig economy and contract workers

Prime Minister Trudeau also promised Thursday a new benefit for those who need to take care of sick family members

$59 million announced to protect the health and safety of migrant workers on Canadian farms

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — The federal government is promising to help those who may not qualify for employment insurance or have exhausted their Canada Emergency Response Benefit, as it is about to end.

“And for those who don’t qualify for EI right now, like gig or contract workers, we will create a transitional, parallel benefit that is similar to Employment Insurance,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

“It will include access to training, and being able to work more hours and earn more money while receiving the benefit.”

He added more details of the new benefit will be laid out in the coming weeks.

“In the weeks ahead, we’ll have more details about what will come after the CERB,” he said. “But to people who need this program, don’t worry. No one will be left behind. Our goal is to transition, everyone on the CERB to Employment Insurance because EI should cover every Canadian who’s looking for work.”

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The $80-billion CERB is set to wind down over the coming weeks, with those who are EI-eligible to start drawing assistance that way.

“That’s only appropriate as our economy reopens and brings back more jobs,” Trudeau said.

The economy started to reawaken after severe lockdowns in March and April as Statistics Canada reported the gross domestic product grew by 4.5 per cent in May.

The average economist estimate was for a 3.5 per cent increase in gross domestic product for May, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

The national data agency said rebounds in May were seen across multiple industries with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Retail trade registered a 16.4 per cent bump to mark its largest monthly increase since comparable readings began in 1961.

As of July 26, the federal government has paid out $63 billion through CERB to 8.5 million Canadians.

About half those costs have gone to workers eligible for EI, leaving millions who don’t pay into it unable to access the program once the emergency benefit ends.

Trudeau also announced Friday a new benefit for those who need to take care of sick family members, as well as $59 million to protect the health and safety of migrant workers on Canadian farms. This came the same day a new contact tracing app was launched in Ontario.

“This will fund more farm inspections, provide emergency relief when needed, and improve the overall living conditions on farms,” he said of funding for farm workers.

The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program has been extended for the month of August, he said.

He also said there will also be a sickness and caregivers benefit for Canadians not covered at work if they get COVID-19, or if their children or parents get it and have to take care of them.

“We’ll have more details to share before the end of August.”

Trudeau further promised no increases to EI premiums during the pandemic.

Regarding the new app, Trudeau said it is now available to download through app stores on phones.