Coronavirus: Canadian employment insurance to be expanded in new stimulus package

As the Canadian government continues to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak, a new stimulus package set to be unveiled Wednesday will include expansions on employment insurance, Global News has learned.

The economic package, which is expected to be worth between $20-$30 billion, will be presented by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and will require a “pared down” version of parliament to be recalled in order for all parties to agree before they agree to suspend proceedings last week.

The prime minister has been meeting with key cabinet to ministers to develop the plan over the last few days.

Global News has also learned that the deadline for filing income tax returns for individuals and businesses will be extended by one month to June 1 and July 31, respectively.

The economic measures come amid the prime minister’s announcement on Monday to close the Canadian borders to most foreign nationals except for Americans, Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that details of the spending package would arrive quickly, and that further measures would be implemented in the coming days to shield the Canadian economy from the blow of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last Wednesday, Trudeau announced that one-week waiting periods for EI sickness benefits would be lifted for those in quarantine or self-isolation. The EI work-sharing program would also receive a boost of $12 million, which will be used to supplement work income when an employer needs to cut hours over a business’ downturn.

However, the measures announced have prompted further calls for expanded support and coverage on who is able to receive EI.

In an interview with Global News, political economist and senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Ricardo Tranjan said that the government’s actions was “a good overall policy,” but expressed his concern on which Canadians might be left behind.

According to his research, only 67 per cent of unemployed workers who contributed to EI were eligible for benefits in 2017.

— With files from the Canadian Press and Global News’ Mike LeCouteur, Kerri Breen

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