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Despite new COVID-19 restrictions, no one is eligible for the new federal benefit


As new restrictions sweep the country just days before Christmas, a new benefit meant to help workers is locking them out of receiving support because of its specific wording.

Last week, parliament passed Bill C-2, which created the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB), a program intended to give $300 a week to anyone who can't work because of a COVID-19 lockdown.

The support is theoretically available for the periods between Oct. 24, 2021 and May 7, 2022. However, no one can apply for it as no parts of the country are currently designated as "under lockdown."

"The CWLB is only available when a COVID-19 lockdown order is designated for your region. Your region may be designated if the lockdown lasts for 14 days or more," the federal government's website says.

This is despite the fact that many shops, bars and restaurants have been forced to close or have had their capacity limits drastically reduced amid surging COVID-19 cases driven by the rise of the Omicron variant.

There's currently no support available for people like Deryck Roche, a Toronto-based musician who says he's already lost $3,000 worth of gigs since Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that capacity at indoor live music venues and bars would be restricted to 50 per cent.

Roche sent a letter to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland urging the government to bring back something similar to the $2,000 a month CERB benefit.

"If Doug Ford's going to cut off our work due to the restrictions because of the Omicron variant, then you're going to need to support us and at least support is back at the same rate the CERB," he told CTV News.

Erik Joyal also made the decision last week to voluntarily close his three Toronto restaurants. With capacity capped at 50 per cent and last call at 10 p.m., he says it was impossible to break even.

"The pace at which thing changed was pretty remarkable. It's kind of like being hit by a freight train," he told CTV News.

"My hope is that the people in government are listening and understanding that they're going to have to react very, very quickly."

In the House of Commons, NDP finance critic Daniel Blaikie called on the government to lift the lockdown requirement for the CWLB for tourism, hospitality and arts and culture workers.

"They are still waiting on some kind of program, but all the government had to do was include them in the Canada worker lockdown benefit without the requirement for a lockdown," he said on Dec. 14.

Freeland's office told CTV News on Tuesday they are looking into whether the lockdown benefit should be changed to "provide more flexibility," but there's no word as to when or if those changes are coming. Top Stories

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