Activist groups feel government not doing enough to help workers impacted by COVID-19

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The Workers' Action Centre and the Fight for $15 and Fairness believe more needs to be done to protect workers impacted by businesses shutting down due to COVID-19.

While the government has announced it will be providing weekly payments to employees who don't qualify for employment insurance (EI), the two groups believe it's not enough.

According to the Government of Canada's website, the federal government has announced the Emergency Care Benefit, which will provide those unable to work due to COVID-19 who don't qualify for EI financial support in the form of bi-weekly payments of $900 for up to 15 weeks--which equals $450 per week.

However, according to the Workers' Action Centre and the Fight for $15 and Fairness, this isn't enough. They're urging the government to raise it to $573 per week, which amounts to bi-weekly payments of $1,146--the maximum weekly benefit under current EI regulations.

"The Federal government's new Emergency Care Benefit sounds promising," Pam Frache, coordinator of the Fight for $15 and Fairness, said in a news release.

"But if it is administered along the lines of EI, providing only a portion of previous wages, it will be meaningless for the workers who need it most. Providing only 55% of a minimum wage is a disaster," she continued.

"Canada--and the provinces--should be following the lead of Quebec that is providing $573 weekly assistance for workers who must self-isolate," Deena Ladd, executive director of the Workers' Action Centre, said in the same release.
"Federal and provincial governments keep saying they will spare no expense to look after workers, well now is the time to put money where their mouths are," she continued.

"Our centre is also being inundated with phone calls from workers who are saying they can't get through on the EI hotline," Ladd said.

"This reflects chronic understaffing of our EI system. We need a dramatic increase in EI staff - and we urgently need information to be made available in multiple languages online and over the phone," she added.

Cover photo courtesy of Fight for $15 and Fairness' Twitter

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