Laid off due to COVID-19? Don't expect government cheques right away
TORONTO -- Workers losing their jobs due to anti-COVID-19 measures may miss a pay cycle or two before the government steps in to help.
With businesses being ordered to stop some or all of their operations in some parts of Canada, and others choosing to due to social distancing or economic concerns, a staggering number of layoffs are happening across the country.
The federal government announced Wednesday that it is creating two new benefits to help affected workers.
One, the emergency support benefit, covers unemployed workers who do not otherwise qualify for employment insurance (EI). The other, the emergency care benefit, is for workers who are off work because they are sick, caring for someone who is sick or looking after children who are not in school, but have not lost enough income to be eligible for EI sickness benefits.
The government's announcement did not include a specific timeline for when the benefits would be available, saying only that applications would open in April.
Speaking to CTV's Your Morning on Thursday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government is moving as fast as it can to have the benefit programs in place, but has no better estimate for when cheques will be in recipients' hands.
"We are working to get exact timelines as rapidly as possible," he said.
"The administration work is starting. We hope that will be enabling us to, within two to three weeks, make sure this is happening."
Once applications open in April, there will be a to-be-determined processing period before claimants are approved and cheques are sent out. Morneau said the government's aim is to have this happen "as fast as we can humanly do it" in order to get financial support to the Canadians who need it most.
More information about the program's rollout will be made public "literally in the days to come," the finance minister said.
In addition to the new benefits, the government is waiving some of the usual requirements for workers to claim EI sickness benefits.
Under normal circumstances, Canadians who are off work due to illness and do not have access to paid sick leave can receive a portion of their salary through the EI program if they provide a doctor's note or other medical certificate. They also have to go one week without pay before EI money kicks in.
Both of those qualifiers are being set aside during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it appears those who apply will also have to wait to start seeing cheques come in. EI sickness payments typically start about 28 days after an application is submitted – and the government has not indicated that it is taking any action to shorten this timeframe.