Canada government raises unemployment benefit, set to win opposition backing

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveils plans for post-coronavirus recovery for Black owned business and entrepreneurs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Canada’s government on Thursday boosted a proposed weekly payout for the jobless that would replace emergency COVID-19 income support that ends this weekend, a move that looks set to help the ruling Liberals win a parliamentary confidence vote.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seeking the support of at least one opposition party on a sweeping agenda to battle COVID-19, help those hurt by it, and foster economic growth.

Two of the three other parties in Parliament signaled they would vote against the plan. But the left-leaning New Democrats, which had demanded the increased payout, indicated they could now well support Trudeau.

“They gave us most of what we asked for,” said George Soule, spokesman for party leader Jagmeet Singh, adding the New Democrats were still negotiating with the government over the party’s demand for paid sick leave.

Canada’s current unemployment rate is 10.2%, up sharply from 5.6% in February, the last full month before the coronavirus outbreak hit.

Earlier in the day, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough formally proposed legislation that would make the new unemployment benefit equal to the emergency income support.

The government had initially said it would offer C$400 ($300) a week for up to 26 weeks, C$100 per week less than the emergency funding that expires this weekend.

The three new aid programs are:

  • A Canada Recovery Benefit of C$500 ($374.30) a week for up to 26 weeks, to workers who are self-employed or are not eligible for employment insurance
  • A Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit of C$500 a week for up to two weeks, for workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19
  • A Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit of C$500 a week for up to 26 weeks per household, for eligible Canadians unable to work because they must care for a young child or family member because schools or day-cares are closed due to COVID-19.

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