As anticipated, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) won’t be extended past September.

Finance minister Bill Morneau announced that the government is looking to move to an economic recovery phase and will shift its focus from individuals to helping businesses. One way of doing that, he said, is by removing “disincentives” that may dissuade people from returning to work.

“We recognize that the best way to help to create jobs, to maintain jobs, is to provide the wage subsidy to businesses so they can get back to work,” said Morneau.

The federal government revealed its much-anticipated economic update pinning the current deficit to $343.2 billion — a figure 1,000 per cent higher than what was projected last fall before the COVID-19 pandemic ground the economy to a halt.

The CERB was originally intended as a 16-week program to deliver direct emergency benefits to Canadians who stopped working or had their hours reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program has been popular with more than 8.16 million unique applications submitted by the end of June. More than $53.53 billion in taxable benefits have been paid out to Canadians.

Last month, PM Trudeau announced the benefit program would be extended by eight weeks as efforts continue in getting businesses to sign up for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and rehire workers. 

But uptake had been slow on the CEWS, a federal program designed to help businesses cover 75 percent of employee wages from March to August.

The CEWS, in comparison to the CERB, has supported three million Canadians so far, according to Wednesday’s fiscal snapshot.

With the CERB winding down in September, the government is hoping more people move to the employment insurance system for support. 

Conservatives have been of the opinion that the $2,000 monthly CERB payments acted as a deterrent for some people from returning to work.

Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer believes the government should introduce a work bonus for CERB recipients. A sort of a CERB top-up that would give workers the support they need to transition back into the workforce and ensure that local businesses are able to hire the staff they need.

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