Nearly one million Canadians applied for income support benefits on the first day the emergency COVID-19 program opened.
According to Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office, 996,000 new claims were filed for the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) Monday, which offers people about $2,000 a month for up to 16 weeks.
Since March 15, there have been a total of 3.7 million claims, including employment insurance (EI) claims that will be paid out as the CERB for the first four months before EI payments kick in.
More than three million applications have been processed to date.
Despite the high numbers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Monday that some people who should qualify for the aid aren’t eligible under current rules.
He promised that changes will be announced in the coming days to include students and people such as gig workers, contractors and volunteer firefighters who work 10 or fewer hours per week.
He also said there would be support for those who continue to work but are making less than they would through CERB, such as home care workers or people caring for vulnerable seniors in long-term care facilities.
“You need support now, and work is underway to get it to you as soon as possible,” he said.
“For people in all of these situations, we see you, we’re going to be there for you, and we’re working as hard as we can to get you the support you need.”
The government is asking people to apply for CERB on days of the week according to birth month in order to avoid overloading the system managed by the Canada Revenue Agency.
On Monday, people born January through March were to apply. Today, it’s people born April through June. Tomorrow people born July through September should apply and Thursday is for those born between October and December.
The government is also offering a 75 per cent wage subsidy program to help businesses keep people on the payroll. Under that program, businesses qualify if they have seen a 30 per cent decline in revenue compared to the same month last year.
All businesses, charities and non-profits are eligible for the subsidy. Parliament is expected to be recalled in coming days to pass legislation to enable the program, which is expected to cost $71 billion.