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View Carla Qualtrough Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Carla Qualtrough Profile
2020-06-17 16:47 [p.2506]
Madam Chair, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to the government's supplementary estimates and highlight some the important programs we have funded to support Canadians in these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parliament has already approved the purpose of the statutory expenditures, and the terms and conditions under which they may be made, through other legislation. Therefore, the changes to statutory items are presented in the supplementary estimates for information purposes only. These priorities are supported by the appropriations requested in my department's main estimates for the years 2020-21. The majority of these adjustments in the supplementary estimates are for COVID measures, students, youth and seniors.
I want to start by going back to March 2020, when the Canadian economy shut down practically overnight. It quickly became clear that our normal safety net would not support the number of people losing their jobs. Canadians needed their government to act quickly, and that is what we did. We passed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act and created the Canada emergency response benefit.
For eligible workers, the CERB has been providing temporary income support of $500 a week for up to 16 weeks. To give members a sense of the scope of the need, more than 8 million workers have been paid more than $40 billion in benefits.
Then, as May turned to June, we knew we needed to make adjustments to the program. We knew that many people's benefits would soon be coming to an end. We were also aware that the economy was beginning to reopen slowly and unevenly across the country. We knew that approximately 1.2 million Canadians who had been getting financial help through the CERB no longer needed it.
Because we know that many Canadians still need help, yesterday we announced the extension of the Canada emergency response benefit. We extended it by eight weeks at the current rate of $500 per week. We know this will go a long way for Canadians who simply do not have a job to return to and for workplaces and industries that have not yet reopened. Extending the CERB will give workers greater confidence that they will continue to get the support they need as they face ongoing disruptions to their work and home situations due to COVID-19.
The CERB will continue to be available from March 15 to October 3. In that time period, workers will now have 24 weeks of the CERB available to them.
While the CERB has been helping millions of Canadian workers get through this difficult time, we know that this benefit is not a long-term solution.
We are transitioning from a phase of the pandemic in which everyone was asked to stay at home to a phase in which workers are returning to work when it is safe and possible for them to do so.
We want to ensure that our programs continue to support Canadians and our economy. That is why we will continue to monitor the situation and ensure that we are able to adapt our existing systems to support Canadian workers as more and more people continue to return to the labour market.
We know that Canadians are ready and eager to do their part. We expect that workers will be seeking work opportunities or returning to work when their employers reach out to them, provided they are able and it is reasonable to do so. We encourage Canadians to consult the Job Bank, Canada's national employment service that offers tools to help Canadians with job searches. These additional weeks will ensure that Canadians have the support they need as they transition back to work.
I will turn now to students and youth.
In April, we recognized that students and youth were facing unique challenges and that many were not eligible for the CERB. That is why we announced, on April 22, comprehensive support for post-secondary students and recent grads. We passed legislation, on April 29, that enabled the four-month Canada emergency student benefit. Students who are not receiving the CERB are eligible to receive $1,250 per month between May and August. Students with disabilities and students with dependants would be eligible to receive an additional $750 per month. We expect the Canada emergency student benefit to cost $5.25 billion.
We also heard very clearly from students that they want to work and they want to serve in their communities in this time of crisis. That is why our measures did not end with the CESB. We announced the creation of thousands of additional jobs and training opportunities, including jobs in the agricultural and processing sectors, through mechanisms like our youth employment and skills strategy and the Canada summer jobs program. The additional funding required for the Canada summer jobs program is $155.4 million.
The jobs funded through the Canada summer jobs program are especially important for young people who face obstacles and those who are looking for their first work experience. These jobs give young people the opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge and experience they need to enter the workforce.
This additional $155.4 million will allow employers to hire approximately 70,000 young people in quality jobs.
We also know that seniors are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. The current situation brings terrible economic stress and anxiety to seniors. That is why our government has introduced measures to help protect their financial security during these uncertain times, measures for which we require additional funding.
First, seniors who have stopped working because of COVID are eligible for the CERB. They can collect the CERB even if they receive the Canada pension plan, old age security or the guaranteed income supplement, without interruption to these benefits. To help seniors cover increased costs caused by COVID-19, seniors eligible for the OAS will receive a one-time, tax-free payment of $300, with an additional $200 for seniors eligible for the GIS. About 6.7 million seniors are eligible for the OAS and will benefit from this one-time payment.
ESDC is requesting $37.2 million in funding for 2020-21 to support ongoing work related to processing demographically driven OAS workload increases.
This funding would also help support organizations that are proposing community-based projects to combat isolation, improve seniors' quality of life, and help seniors maintain a social support network.
The federal government will expand the new horizons for seniors program, with an additional investment of $20 million to support organizations that offer community-based projects that provide the opportunity to further help seniors during this pandemic. It will also provide $9 million for local organizations through United Way Centraide Canada and invest $350 million in a new emergency community support fund that will help all vulnerable Canadians, including seniors in need.
These combined measures to help Canadians, students, youth and seniors get through COVID-19 have been and still are necessary to support Canadians during this crisis, and have helped stabilize the economy.
I am now ready to take questions.
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