Extending COVID-19 Employment Benefit To Cost Ottawa $17.9 Billion

Ottawa’s plans to extend employment benefits to Canadians whose jobs have been impacted by COVID-19 will cost the federal government an additional $17.9 billion.

The parliamentary budget officer estimates in a new report that it will cost nearly $18 billion for the federal government to provide eight additional weeks of payments through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which pays Canadians $2,000.00 a month. The report says the total cost of the benefit program for people who’ve lost work to the COVID-19 pandemic will be $71.3 billion.

To date, CERB has paid out $43.51 billion to 8.41 million people as demand surges past federal expectations. With the first cohort of CERB applicants set to hit the 16-week limit on their payments early in July, the Liberal government has promised to extend the limit to 24 weeks to provide help through the summer for those who need it.

When the Liberals unveiled CERB, it was positioned as the largest social support program in Canadian history. The Liberals’ latest estimated cost of the total package of pandemic-related aid to Canadian individuals and businesses was $153.7 billion, but the parliamentary budget officer now forecasts the true cost at $169.2 billion.