OTTAWA — More than 300,000 Canadians applied for the new federal aid benefit for Canadians who lost their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic within the first few hours they could, according to the Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos.
The application portal for the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) opened on Monday, on the heels of news that more than two million Canadians have lost their job amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
By the time Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the nation shortly before noon EDT, he said that 240,000 Canadians had successfully applied. Roughly an hour later, Duclos shared that the figure had already jumped to “more than 300,000.”
The new benefit will provide successful applicants with $2,000 a month for four months.
However, not everyone is eligible for the new benefit. In order to be eligible, applicants must have earned at least $5,000 in the past 12 months or in 2019 as a whole, and must be out of work for reasons directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Duclos, the onslaught of applications for government assistance is blowing averages out of the water. He explained in his Monday press conference that the 2.5 million applications for Employment Insurance (EI) the government has received in recent weeks “were processed quickly,” despite being more than the government usually receives in a year.
“Out of these 2.5 million requests, 2.1 [million] of them were processed over the past two weeks,” Duclos said, adding that those who have already applied for EI do not need to apply for the CERB.
The government has staggered the application process, meaning the 300,000 Canadians who have applied for the benefit so far represent a fraction of those who are slated to apply throughout the week. Canadians born in January, February and March applied today, with Canadians who were born in later months being phased into the application process throughout the rest of the week.
For those who are able to successfully apply, Trudeau said those availing themselves of the direct deposit option will receive money in three to five days. Cheques by mail will take a little bit longer, with an anticipated 10 days delivery time.
Opposition parties have criticized the government for what they say are holes in the program. Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said there are “serious design and delivery flaws” with the CERB that leave out groups like small business owners who paid themselves with dividends and workers who have retained some clients.
According to The Canadian Press, NDP MPs Peter Julian and Gord Johns wrote to Morneau Sunday also asking for changes, including to address the fact the benefit provides an incentive not to work at all.
The government has said they will have more announcements in coming days regarding changes to the program. Duclos said they plan to ensure three groups are brought under the umbrella of the CERB: workers with reduced hours, those who are paid less than they would receive with the CERB, and students or other seasonal workers.
Canadians looking to apply for the benefit can visit this link or call 1-800-959-2041.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV’s Rachel Aiello
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