More aid coming for those who don’t qualify for current COVID-19 benefits: PM

OTTAWA — As another critical week in Canada’s efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve begins, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will soon introduce new measures to make emergency benefits accessible for Canadians who don’t currently qualify.

Trudeau said that Canadians who still have jobs but are working reduced hours, as well as those who are working but earning less money due to the pandemic, like gig economy or contract workers, will soon be able to qualify for federal assistance.

The prime minister also said that the government is currently drafting its second piece of emergency legislation, and will be looking to recall Parliament as quickly as possible, this time to pass a multibillion-dollar expansion to COVID-19 financial assistance measures.

On April 1, Trudeau called the expanded wage subsidy program the largest economic program in Canadian history, and that’s why he thinks Parliament should be reconvened to approve it. Though, the recall is also needed because it exceeds what was included in the legislation passed during the first emergency overnight sitting. 

Entering the fourth week of physical distancing and shutdown of non-essential workplaces, health officials say they will be watching closely the number of new cases being reported to get a sense of whether or not the measures in place are proving effective at slowing the virus’ spread.

With more information about the number of cases coming in from across the country, the federal government says it’s working on ways to present more concrete modelling and science-based predictions in the coming days.

As of Monday morning, there are 15,822 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, with the highest concentrations of the virus in Quebec, and Ontario.

Shipments of essential medical supplies are also set to continue arriving in Canada this week, as domestic production ramps up in an effort to stave off the impacts of global price gouging and protectionism.

Over the weekend Trudeau indicated that with the New Canadian Emergency Response Benefit applications opening on Monday, more direct help would be coming soon for students who don’t qualify. He also put a call out for volunteers to help Health Canada with data collection, case tracking and contact tracing. 

Trudeau said that 240,000 people had already applied for the emergency benefit before noon.

In another effort for additional financial relief, Finance Minister Bill Morneau has announced that several big banks would be lowering credit card rates for those impacted by COVID-19. 

In perhaps an attempt to limit future in-person House of Commons sittings in an era of working from home, the government has written to Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota to get advice on what would be a historic first: moving to virtual sittings of the House of Commons as a potential avenue for digital democratic accountability.