The aid comes at a time of growing concerns over new COVID-19 restrictions and job losses as Canadian governments try to bring the number of new cases under control and prevent health systems from being overwhelmed.
These federal benefits also come on the heels of a bitter political struggle in Ottawa that saw all parties support the series of new, multibillion-dollar benefits proposed by the Liberal Party despite reservations about how the government has handled itself rushed to pass these measures through Parliament.
“It is essential that Canadians have access to income support that reflects the effects of the pandemic on their jobs,” National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said on Sunday.
The new caregiver benefit answers many calls since the start of the pandemic for more support for parents and others forced to take time off work to care for a dependent due to COVID-19.
Women have suffered a disproportionate impact on their careers and income as a result of the pandemic, as many of them bear much of the burden related to childcare and home schooling.
Canadian households will be able to claim $ 500 per week, disposable for 26 weeks, when someone is absent from work because of the need to care for an ill child.
This includes children whose schools or daycares are closed due to COVID-19, and children who are forced to miss school or daycare because they contracted the virus or may have been exposed.
The benefit, which Canadians can apply to the Canada Revenue Agency, also applies to people forced to take time off work to care for family members whose specialized care is not available due to COVID-19.
The federal government projects that 700,000 Canadians will apply for the caregiver benefit.
Canadians will also be able to access a new sick leave benefit that will pay up to $ 1,000 over two weeks to people unable to work because they have contracted COVID-19 or are forced to self-isolate due to the virus.
Ottawa expects 4.4 million Canadians to request sick leave.
The NDP made the creation of sick leave pay for workers a condition for it to support the Liberals’ efforts to speed up the passage of its stimulus plan in Parliament last week.
The plan includes the two new benefit programs and a third program that replaces the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (ECP) of $ 500 per week, the main support program for people unable to work due to COVID-19.
Canadians can start applying for the Canada Economic Stimulus Benefit (CEP), which will also pay $ 500 per week for up to 26 weeks, starting October 12.
The President of the Canadian Labor Congress, Hassan Yussuff, on Sunday welcomed the new caregiver benefits and sick leave, especially given the growing number of cases in different parts of the country.
More than 1,600 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Sunday, although some provinces had not provided figures this weekend.
The figures raise fears of imminent new restrictions in some areas.
“It’s really a blessing for a lot of people who will need it,” Hassan Yussuff said of the new benefits.
“People will have the security of having an income if they have to take time off, and they won’t have to worry about not being able to pay their rent or buy groceries or other needs.”
Yet even though he welcomed the new benefits, Hassan Yussuff noted that they are only temporary and that COVID-19 has underscored the need for ongoing help for caregivers and for sick leave, even after the pandemic.
“Although these benefits are temporary in nature, they also reflect the fact that millions of people go to work every day without sick leave,” he said.
Canadian Federation of Independent Business President Dan Kelly called the new benefits “completely reasonable” given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic.
However, he expressed concern about any measure making the measures permanent, suggesting that businesses will be forced to shoulder a large part of the financial burden in the form of increased EI premiums or in the form of taxes.
“Any of these changes will have to come from the pockets of employers that are already empty,” said Dan Kelly, adding that the vast majority of small businesses have yet to regain their pre-pandemic levels.