Ottawa residents who have been out of work for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic are welcoming a plan to extend extend the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) by another month.
On Thursday, the federal government announced a $37-billion package of benefit reforms that would extend the CERB until Sept. 27. It also would introduce changes to EI and other economic recovery benefits.
The package still needs approval from Parliament, which is prorogued until Sept. 23.
"I think it's fantastic," said Sara Danbrook, who collected CERB in order to stay home with her two children, and plans to return to work in mid-September.
She said the extension is especially helpful for parents struggling to navigate the return to school for their children.
"I think that having this extra time … for them to stay home, see how things go [and] still have income coming in is really going to take that other worry off of their minds," Danbrook said.
Sayed Elfaki had to go on CERB when business dried up at the taxi company he worked for. He's been trying to find other employment, but has been relying on CERB to make ends meet.
"I started doing some deliveries, but it wasn't enough," Elfaki said. "So I have no other choice. I would like to contribute to my country, to be like other citizens to benefit our economy, but unfortunately our hands are tied."
The CERB has been a relief for many business owners, too, who worried about the employees they had to lay off.
"I'm so grateful for them," said Amanda Kachi, who runs a market and deli franchise. "I know it's causing more of a deficit problem, but my employees really need this money, at least until I'm able to open my business."
Kachi's business is in an office tower and many of her customers were federal government workers, most of whom are now working remotely.
Business advocate concerned
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is welcoming aspects of the federal benefits plan, but worries it could backfire, particularly for small businesses.
"The biggest concern for small business owners is that workers will now be able to collect EI benefits for up to 26 weeks after demonstrating only 120 hours of work over the past year," said CFIB president Dan Kelly in a news release.
"This is just too low a bar and will serve as a disincentive for many part-time workers to return to their pre-COVID employment."