Federal measures aimed at helping workers hit by the COVID-19 pandemic give Canadians some reassurance, but aid needs to move quickly and expand.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced new coverage for workers who aren’t eligible for EI and get sick, need to self-isolate, or care for children or a sick family member. The emergency care benefit is expected to be open for application in early April, and will provide a maximum of $900 every two weeks for 15 weeks, replacing up to 55 per cent of workers’ wages. CUPE is calling for the benefit and other measures to roll out as quickly as possible, and to leave no-one behind.
“Canadian workers affected by the pandemic urgently need protection. CUPE members and countless other workers are out there on the frontlines delivering the services we know will get us through this crisis. They need security and support now, and for as long as it takes to weather this global pandemic. Today’s announcement tells us help is on the way. But Canadians can’t afford to wait,” says CUPE National President Mark Hancock.
CUPE is looking for immediate support for Canadians working in sectors that will be hardest-hit, starting with airline workers, who are facing mass layoffs in the coming days and weeks.
CUPE is concerned that people who need support the most will wait the longest, including for increases to the Child Care Benefit and an increased GST credit which are expected to come in May.
While there’s good news for many affected workers, there are still gaps to close to ensure no worker is left behind. Federal aid needs to expand to cover income supports for people who are still working but at reduced hours, and who don’t qualify for EI Work-Sharing arrangements or the small business wage subsidy.
CUPE is also calling on the federal government to work with the provinces to provide emergency child care for workers who are still on the job delivering vital public services.
“All Canadian workers need support, no matter where they work or what kind of job they have. Workers need to focus on doing what it takes to stay safe and healthy during this unprecedented public health crisis. No-one should have to worry about keeping a roof over their head or feeding their family. We need to make sure this safety net covers us all,” says CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury.
Increased funding to help people experiencing homelessness or gender-based violence is welcome, as is temporary relief for mortgage and student loan payments. Further action is needed to ensure the significant credit support being given to banks and businesses will be passed on to people as they wait for this benefit package to reach them.