COVID-19 Federal government response

Questions are mounting about how the federal government will continue to support Canadian workers who remain unemployed as emergency benefits offered during the coronavirus pandemic run out.

The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

On April 6, applications opened for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provides eligible applicants with $2,000 every four weeks. The program applied retroactively to March 15 and is available until early October.

But people can only claim the benefit for a total of 16 weeks — or four eligibility periods — and the end of the program’s fourth period is fast-approaching early July. For those who have been receiving the CERB continuously since mid-March, they will exhaust their benefits on July 4. The next date that claimants might max out is on Aug. 1.

The NDP is pressing the government to extend the CERB program for at least another four months and the Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report on Wednesday (10) which estimated the cost of extending the program for more 120 weeks at $64 billion.

The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development told this week to our newspaper that government are making sure that “Canadian families could put food on the table and keep a roof over their head”.

Milénio Stadium: Next month, Canadian families who receive the Canada Child Benefit will see an increase in July to support the cost of living. The seniors will also receive an increase on the federal support. However, opposition consider that Canada Emergency Programs discourage people from working and will put next generations on debt.

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: Canada’s economy is in a period of extraordinary uncertainty due to COVID-19. We moved quickly to make sure Canadian families could put food on the table, and keep a roof over their head with measures like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

We will continue to be open and transparent about the actions we are taking to support families, our health care system, and our economy. This includes bi-weekly reports to Parliament on the full cost and status of our economic response plan measures. Once it is possible to provide a clear economic projection, we will provide an update. Our priority is to make sure all Canadians have the support they need and we will continue to support businesses and workers during these difficult times.

MS: A report of the Canadian Armed Forces working inside long-term care homes exposed a dramatic situation in Canada. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that any province couldn’t fix the problem by himself. What is the Federal Government plane?

Minister of Families: We are deeply concerned by the outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities. Our thoughts are with those who have lost a loved one.

Our Government has been working with provincial counterparts to address these outbreaks, and PHAC released guidance for facilities on how they can protect their residents from COVID-19.

We all have a role to play to stop the spread of COVID-19. While you are unable to visit your loved ones, we encourage you to connect with loved ones over the phone and internet. We will continue to work closely with our provincial and territorial colleagues to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect seniors.

MS: Canada is gearing up for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine, having inked a contact to buy 37 million syringes, roughly enough to deliver shots to the country’s entire population. Children and vulnerable groups will be the first ones to have the vaccine?

Minister of Families: Researchers and scientists in Canada and around the world are working hard to better understand the virus, and its impacts on people and communities.

That’s why we are investing more than $1 billion in support of a national medical and research strategy to address COVID-19, that includes vaccine development, the production of treatments, and the tracking and testing of the virus.

The strategy includes the establishment of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force that will oversee the coordination of a series of countrywide blood test surveys, to tell us how widely the virus has spread in Canada, and provide reliable estimates of potential immunity and vulnerabilities in Canadian populations. By supporting COVID-19 research, we will be able to better protect the health and safety of Canadians and vulnerable populations around the world.

MS: In Ontario the school won’t reopen until September. However, Quebec, the province with more cases of COVID-19 in Canada, decided to reopen. Would it make sense to have a national plan to reopen all the schools at the same time?

Minister of Families: As this is a provincial issue – we know as provinces and territories start to reopen, we need to be careful in how we lift our public health measures.

Even now, everyone needs to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19, by practicing  physical distancing; if you are sick, do not go outside and do not go to work; wash your hands regularly and clean commonly-used surfaces. Now more than ever, our individual actions matter as we continue to monitor the situation.

Joana Leal/MS

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