BREAKING: Trudeau expands COVID-19 emergency benefit criteria for contract workers, part-timers

In an announcement Wednesday morning during his daily public address, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) made available to support out-of-work Canadians during COVID-19 has now been expanded to include freelancers, contract workers, and part-time/seasonal workers now seeing less than $1,000 per month of income as a result of the current health crisis.

This fixes one of the major holes in CERB’s eligibility criteria. Though CERB was always intended to be a streamlined benefit that also included Canadians typically ineligible for supports such as EI, the original CERB requirement was that eligible applicants must earn no income for 14 consecutive days during their first four-week period of their support, and then no income whatsoever for all subsequent four-week periods.

This deeply flawed criteria immediately left out a large number of Canada’s freelancers, artists, contractors, part-timers, and gig workers, many of whom are still holding onto remaining scraps of work amid COVID-19 and making some income, albeit not enough to cover even basic living expenses. Even if a freelancer made just $100 in a month, for example, that fact alone immediately disqualified them from CERB support.

Thankfully, the voices of Canada’s affected workers were heard, and Trudeau’s public address today came with the announcement that Canadian workers earning less than $1,000 a month during COVID-19 will now be eligible to receive full CERB support.

This includes Canadians seeing a significant reduction, but not necessarily a total loss, of income including freelance and gig workers, part-time workers with reduced hours, and seasonal workers. The benefit will now also include those who have exhausted their existing EI benefits.

More news is still to come on supports for post-secondary students and businesses struggling to pay rent.

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