Feds to extend CERB beyond 16 weeks

Program was set to end first week of July

Workers relying on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to pay their bills will be able to do so at least a little bit longer.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday (June 15) the federal government will extend the $2,000 monthly benefit beyond its original 16-week lifespan.

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The program was set to end the first week of July, however, 8.41 million Canadians are still on it as of June 4.

“CERB was designed to keep people at home and get us through this initial wave of the pandemic,” the prime minister said, adding he understands some jobs will not be coming back in the short term.

Trudeau did not reveal how many additional weeks the CERB would be extended but said more details on the extension would come later in the week.

While millions of Canadians continue to tap the CERB as much of the economy has ground to a halt, the prime minister also implored businesses to apply for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

The program covers 75% of the first $58,700 an employee earns.

As of June 8 the government has paid out $10.5 billion of the $73 billion originally earmarked.

The CEWS was meant to keep workers on their company payrolls even if there was not enough work for them to do.

The lack of applications may indicate many businesses simply cannot afford to pay out their 25% obligation to CEWS, leaving more workers to rely on CERB.

Trudeau said if small businesses need additional support, they can also apply for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA).

The CEBA initiative allows banks to offer $40,000 loans guaranteed by government to eligible businesses that come interest-free for the first year.

Under certain conditions, $10,000 of the loan will be forgivable.

CEBA is now expanding its eligibility to include farmers.

Meanwhile, Trudeau announced the opening of the federal government’s Surplus Food Rescue Program.

The program will help move products that farmers and fishers can’t sell.

Instead of those food products going to waste, the food will be delivered to Canadians in need.

As provincial economies begin to reopen as the summer approaches, Canadians will likely find themselves considering exploring their home provinces for holiday options rather than going overseas.

The prime minister confirmed during his media briefing that borders will remain closed between Canada and the U.S. for now, citing broad consensus from premiers to keep in place restrictions on non-essential travel.

torton@biv.com

@reporton

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