Federal government expands COVID relief benefits in the face of Omicron

·2 min read
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a child care announcement in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Blair Gable
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says more Canadians can qualify for federal COVID benefits (REUTERS/Blair Gable

The federal government is expanding financial relief programs for workers and businesses in response to new restrictions following the swift rise of the Omicron variant in Canada.

"We are temporarily expanding eligibility for key programs," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a news conference Wednesday.

"For the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) and the Local Lockdown Program (LLP), you’ll be able to apply if you're subject to capacity limiting restrictions."

The Local Lockdown Program (LLP) will now include businesses that are subject to capacity-limiting restrictions of 50 per cent or more; and will reduce the current-month revenue decline threshold requirement to 25 per cent from 40 per cent.

The Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) will be expanded to include workers in regions where provincial or territorial governments have introduced capacity-limiting restrictions of 50 per cent or more. It will provide $300 a week to eligible workers who are directly affected by a COVID-19-related public health lockdown, and who have lost 50 per cent or more of their income as a result.

Both programs were announced in October as something of a successor to the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). They came at a time when the worst of the pandemic seemed to be over and were intended for workers affected by local lockdowns. But they have been criticized for being too limited in scope for the situation many parts of the country now find themselves in.

The new rules apply from December 19, 2021, to February 12, 2022.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says expanding the programs will cost about $4 billion and will be covered by the money set aside in the fall fiscal update.

"With today's expanded federal support programs, Canadians can follow new provincial health restrictions, knowing that the federal government is there as we have been from the start to support everyone," said Freeland during the news conference.

As previously announced, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) will last until May 7.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

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