More than 500,000 Canadians applied for EI in the last week: Trudeau
TORONTO -- Over the past week alone, half a million Canadians filed for employment insurance — a ‘historic number’ outlining the true economic impact of COVID-19, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Speaking from his home in Ottawa on Friday, where he has been self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus that has been consuming the globe, Trudeau called this an “unprecedented situation.”
“We received over 500,000 applications so far this week, compared to just under 27,000 applications for the same week last year,” he said, noting that Service Canada as well as other government agencies had received a drastic uptick in “calls from concerned Canadians.”
According to Statistics Canada, this week’s number of EI applications is also twice as high as the number of claims for the entire month of March in 2019, when there were around 244,000 claims.
The number of applications this week includes both regular and sick leave EI applications.
Thousands of Canadians have been temporarily laid off as their workplaces shut down amid the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants and public spaces such as libraries and museums have shut their doors, leaving staff out of a job. Others, whose income was tied to large gatherings such as concerts, conferences, or festivals have had their gigs cancelled en masse and found themselves struggling.
“I know people are anxious to get the help you deserve, and our government is working as fast as possible to support them,” Trudeau said. “Thousands of public servants are working around the clock to help you.”
The federal government announced new financial support plans for Canadians on Wednesday. Anyone directed to self-isolate or quarantine will not have to wait the usual one week to access EI sickness benefits. Those applying for sickness benefits will also no longer need to provide a doctor’s note.
The government also announced a new emergency care benefit and an emergency support benefit. The first will provide up to $900 every two weeks for Canadians who do not qualify for EI, but are sick themselves, caring for those who are sick, or caring for children who cannot attend schools due to closures. This benefit lasts for up to 15 weeks.
The emergency support benefit will offer payments of undisclosed amounts to unemployed workers who don’t qualify for EI.
In Canada, more than 1,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and 13 people have died, including a Canadian who was being treated in Japan.