Dear neighbours,

Since I last updated you, our government has announced changes to two critical programs: the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA). We introduced these two programs, in addition to numerous other measures and programs, to support individuals and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are expanding these two programs to include more individuals and businesses in need of support as they do their part to follow public health recommendations and, in turn, slow the spread of the virus.

Nearly 6 million Canadians are either self-employed or would not have had enough hours of work to qualify for EI benefits. Recognizing this, our government took action and created the new CERB to support workers and their families. As of April 6, a single landing page is available to assist Canadians with the application process at Canada.ca/coronavirus-cerb

However, we recognized that the CERB did not cover many Canadians who continued to work at a reduced level, and, in turn, at a reduced income, including many artists, self-employed individuals, freelance workers, and others. This is why our government announced changes to eligibility requirements for the CERB yesterday.

These eligibility changes open up the program to help more workers, including those who still have some income but not enough to make ends meet. Our government has changed the eligibility rules to:

  • Allow workers, including the self-employed, to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB;
  • Include workers who recently exhausted their EI regular benefits since January 1, 2020, and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19; and
  • Include seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits since January 1, 2020, and are unable to undertake their usual seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

These changes will be retroactive to March 15, 2020.

You can find more detailed information about this announcement via the following resources:

You can also find more information on the Government of Canada’s website in the CERB FAQ section.

Last week, we launched the CEBA, which provides interest-free, partially forgivable loans of up to $40,000 via financial institutions. To date, more than 195,000 loans have been approved.

However, I have heard from and spoken with many of you in our community over the past several days who own small businesses but did not qualify for a CEBA loan.

Today, the Prime Minister announced that we are expanding the eligibility requirements to include businesses with between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019. This new range will replace the previous $50,000 and $1 million range and will help address the challenges faced by small businesses to cover non-deferrable operating costs.

Our government will continue to monitor and respond to the wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19, and take additional actions as needed to protect the health and safety of Canadians and stabilize our economy.

Find more information about today’s announcement here.

Support for small businesses:

Please see recommended resources from the Ministry of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade below:

1) Visit our government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan website for information about supporting your employees and your business. It is constantly updated as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.

2) Contact your local financial institution. They are a good first place to start for help.

3) Consult the Canadian Business Resilience Network and Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s pandemic preparedness guide to help prepare your business in the days and weeks to come.

In case you missed it:
New Government of Canada mental health resource

Yesterday, the Minister of Health Patty Hajdu announced the launch of Wellness Together Canada, a mental health and substance use portal for all Canadians.

This web-based portal provides Canadians with a virtual network of psycho-social information services and supports. This portal is a central resource for accessing confidential mental health and substance use support with respect to COVID-19.

You can also access it via Canada.ca/coronavirus and the Canada COVID-19 app.

Health Canada worked with a wide variety of organizations that have a long history of providing top-quality mental health and substance use care to Canadians, including Stepped Care Solutions, Kids Help Phone, Homewood Health, Greenspace Health, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and the Canadian Psychological Association.

In addition, as a result of school closures and reduced access to community resources, Kids Help Phone is experiencing increased demand for its confidential 24/7 crisis support services, which are available online, by telephone, and through text messaging. In response, our government has provided $7.5 million to Kids Help Phone to meet this increased demand and provide young people with the mental health support they need during this difficult time.

Top-up for essential workers

As we take unprecedented action in the fight against COVID-19, workers on the front line and in essential services have been going above and beyond to serve our communities. The pandemic has put a tremendous burden on these workers who are saving lives, ensuring the safety and integrity of our food supply, and providing essential retail services.

Our government will ensure that they are properly compensated for their efforts. Through a new transfer with the provinces and territories, we will provide a top-up to the salaries of the millions of low-income workers making less than $2,500 per month who have been deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19.

Further details will be announced soon, following ongoing collaboration with the provinces and territories.

Stay tuned:
Commercial rent assistance program coming soon
Many of you have reached out to me, concerned about whether or not you will be able to pay rent for your business. Please know that I have heard your concerns and feedback, and I have been advocating directly on your behalf.

Recognizing the challenges businesses are facing, our government intends to introduce the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program for small businesses. This program will seek to provide loans and/or forgivable loans to commercial property owners who provide businesses with rent reductions in April (retroactive), May, and June.

To do this, we require cooperation from provincial and territorial governments who govern owner-tenant relationships in accordance with Canada’s constitutional distribution of legislative powers.

I will be monitoring the progress and rollout of this new program closely, and I will continue to provide you with updates as more information becomes available.


Find a list of COVID-19 resources on my website here.

You can find the most up-to-date information on the official Government of Canada website at Canada.ca.

Here are the official online resources for COVID-19 information from each level of government:

For additional COVID-19 questions not answered on the federal website or its FAQ section, please contact:

Learn more about Canada’s response to COVID-19 here.

Rest assured, as information becomes available, I will continue to provide you with regular updates.

Arif Virani, MP
Parkdale—High Park