Fishermen prepare for the opening of the valuable lobster season in Woods Harbour, on Nova Scotia's South Shore on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. Seasonal workers and those who have recently run out of employment insurance will now be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Expanded COVID-19 benefits to include part-time and seasonal workers: Trudeau

Part-time and seasonal workers are now eligible to claim the $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday.

Speaking at his daily briefing in Ottawa, Trudeau announced that the federal government is stepping up to better support Canadians who need help but don’t qualify for the CERB, and those working in essential jobs who make less than they would if they received the benefit.

The expanded benefits programs will allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.

Seasonal workers and those who have recently run out of employment insurance will now be eligible for CERB. And people who make less than $1,000 a month due to reduced work hours will also qualify.

“Maybe you’re a volunteer firefighter, or a contractor who can pick up some shifts, or you have a part-time job in a grocery store,” Trudeau said. “Even if you’re still working, or you want to start working again, you probably need help making ends meet.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

He also announced a wage boost for essential workers who make less than $2,500 a month, including those working in long-term care facilities for the elderly.

“For many workers looking after the most vulnerable Canadians, including seniors and those with disabilities, we know conditions have gotten more difficult over the past weeks. And you need support right now,” Trudeau said.

“As we face an unprecedented threat to public health, you are our most important line of defence. We will do whatever we can to help you do your job and support you through this.”

The federal government needs to coordinate the delivery of this new measure with the provincial and territorial governments but hopes to release details shortly, Trudeau said, adding that it could help “several million workers currently involved in the COVID-19 response.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who acts as the leader of the Official Opposition in Canada, said his party has been pointing to gaps in the program for weeks.

“Any time a program can be changed to make sure the help is getting to those who need it, we obviously support that,” he said during a news conference in Ottawa.

Legislation passed on the weekend on the separate business wage subsidy program also spoke to the need for measures to address gaps in the CERB.

Under the initial version of the program, applicants must have earned at least $5,000 in the past 12 months, and must be out of work for reasons directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to qualify for it.

With files from Kathleen Harris of CBC News

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