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Canada Sets a High Standard for Social Support During the Pandemic

Arguably more than most governments worldwide, Canada has taken an almost no-questions-asked approach to helping millions of its citizens impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides $2,000 every month for up to four months to eligible workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19. The government has not ruled out extending the payments if needed.

The funds are available to workers who meet all of the following conditions:

  • live in Canada and are at least 15 years old
  • stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance or sickness benefits
  • have not voluntarily quit their job
  • had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application.

On April 15, eligibility rules were broadened to:

  • allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.
  • extend the CERB to seasonal workers unable to undertake their seasonal work because of COVID-19
  • extend the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their Employment Insurance benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.

A fast and simple online questionnaire has already been completed by millions of Canadians, who have already seen the first payments land in their accounts. The government has announced that the priority is making speedy payments now, with abuses of the system to be dealt with later.

The CERB is only one of a range of emergency measures rolled out in Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan for individuals, businesses and sectors.

Canada should be lauded for this rapid and meaningful economic support to its citizens and companies, which recognizes the scale of the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic, prepares for the post-pandemic economy, and which in the meantime shrewdly mitigates the risks that flow from the painful effects of economic catastrophe.