Feds to create EI-like benefit for gig, contract workers, extend rent relief program

Ottawa downtown
Sisoje/iStock photo

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government plans to move out-of-work Canadians into the employment insurance system and provide parallel support for millions set to exhaust emergency pandemic aid who don't have EI to fall back on.

The $80-billion Canada Emergency Response Benefit is set to wind down over the coming weeks, with those who are EI-eligible to start drawing assistance that way.

Speaking Friday morning, Trudeau said many people who don't qualify for the program, such as gig or contract workers, will gain access to a transitional, parallel benefit that is similar to EI.

It will also include access to training, and the ability to work more hours without having as steep a clawback in benefit payments, Trudeau said.

He said more details will be unveiled at a later date.

The most recent figures on the CERB show that as of July 26, the government had paid out $62.75 billion in benefits to 8.46 million unique applicants since its launch.

About half those costs have gone to EI-eligible workers, leaving millions who don't pay into EI unable to access the program once the emergency benefit ends.

"No one will be left behind," Trudeau promised.

Also Friday, the government announced that the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program has been extended once again, and will now cover a portion of August's rent for businesses that qualify.

To get the rent assistance, businesses will not have to prove a 70 per cent decline in sales for July or August, but will have to show a 70 per cent revenue shortfall that qualified them for CECRA in April, May and June.

The program's low adoption rate was previously criticized by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which cited the onus on landlords and stringent requirements.

But on Friday, the government said that thousands of new applications are being regularly submitted, "demonstrating a strong interest in CECRA from property owners and small business tenants."

About $613 million has been paid out to 63,000 tenants as of Thursday, the government said.