Federal Spending Bill Gets Royal Assent

The Senate has approved the Coronavirus support package and the spending bill has received Royal Assent.  The Bill, titled Covid-19 Emergency Response Act (the “Act”) includes broad new measures to support workers and businesses dealing with the impact of the pandemic.  $52 billion of the package will be to provide direct support to Canadian workers and businesses.  The remaining $55 billion is directed at ensuring the liquidity of businesses and households through tax deferrals.  Importantly, the Government has indicated that this is not the end of the aid that Canadians can expect to see in response to the pandemic.

Some of the measures in the bill include tax deferrals, deferring repayments and freezing interest on student loans for six months.  Also launched is a new emergency benefits for workers who lose their income as a result of the Coronavirus and expanded eligibility for employment Insurance.  The emergency benefit combines two of the benefits the government had announced last week.  The benefit provides for a payment of $2,000 per month to those who have lost their income because of the pandemic for a period of four months.  The benefit will be available to workers who can’t work for almost any reason related to COVID-19 including those who are self employed but also those who have to take care of ill dependents.  The benefit will be available to those that need to quarantine or self-isolate, to those who have closed or reduced businesses and can’t offer workers as many or any shifts and for those who are caring for someone who is ill.

The Act determines eligibility for the emergency benefit through the definition of a “worker” and through eligibility requirements.  For the purposes of the Act “worker” is defined as a person who is at least 15 years of age, who is a resident in Canada and for 2019 or in the 12 month period preceding the day on which the application is made, has a total income of at least $5,000 from the following sources:

  1. Employment;
  2. Self-employment;
  3. Benefits paid under the employment Insurance Act; and
  4. Allowance or benefits paid under a provincial plan because of pregnancy or in respect of the care by the person of a child.

The Act specifies that a worker is eligible for an income support payment if:

  1. The worker, whether employed or self-employed, ceases working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days; and
  2. They do not receive in respect of the days on which they have ceased working:
  • Income from employment or self-employment;
  • Benefits under the Employment Insurance Act; or
  • Allowances paid to the worker under a provincial plan because of pregnancy or in respect to the care by the worker of their children.

The emergency benefit is available for a period of 16 weeks.  An employed worker who voluntarily quits their employment will not be eligible.  The provisions of the Act make it clear that the emergency benefit is meant to fill the void where workers are not entitled to Employment Insurance due to being self-employed or for another reason.

In addition to the emergency benefit the Act provides for changes to the Canada Labour Code.  The Code provides for minimum employment standards for federally regulated employees.  The revisions to the Code provide for a leave of absence without provision of a medical certificate and provides a new form of leave related to COVID-19.  The Act provides that every employee covered by the Code is entitled to and shall be granted a leave of absence of up to 16 weeks if the employee is unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to the Coronavirus.  This revision is similar to the revision to the British Columbia Employment Standards Act prohibiting termination of employees who go on leave due to COVID-19.


This update was authored by Rose Keith, QC. Looking for more information on developments regarding the evolving COVID-19 pandemic? Contact Rose at rkeith@harpergrey.com or anyone else listed on the authors page.