Feds to extend pandemic benefits

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The federal government will extend the period of time claimants can receive several pandemic income benefits, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today.

Sickness benefits, caregiving benefits and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) are all getting top-ups when it comes to the duration during which each can be claimed — meaning Canadians will be able to access financial help for an even longer stretch of time.

The total cost of these beefed-up benefits will be $12.1 billion, the government confirmed on Friday.

“As some workers could begin to exhaust their benefits in late March, this increase would ensure continued support as Canada’s economy and labour force recovers,” the government said in a news release. “By increasing the number of available weeks for these important benefits, the government is giving certainty to workers in hard hit sectors and their families, and better positioning our economy to recover.”

“To begin with, we are extending the Canada Recovery Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit by 12 weeks. That makes the new maximum that you can claim 38 weeks in total,” Trudeau said, speaking in a Friday press conference.

The government will also seek to increase the maximum period recipients can receive EI regular benefits to 50 weeks, an extension of 24 weeks. This applies to claims made from between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.

The changes to EI depend on legislation receiving approval in Parliament.

Prior to this change, both the CRB and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) were only available for a total of 26 weeks. The new announcement will allow Canadians to access an additional 12 weeks of either benefit, which each offer the recipients $500 per week.

The freshly extended CRB is available to anyone who isn’t eligible for EI but has stopped working or had their income reduced by at least 50 per cent due to COVID-19.

Recipients receive $500 for a one-week period and must reapply each week to continue receiving the benefit.

The CRSB, designed to support those who cannot work due to illness or having to self-isolate in the pandemic, will be extended to four weeks from the previous two. Those eligible can receive $500 per week but must reapply every week.

“No one should be going to work sick right now. It’s that simple,” Trudeau said.

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