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By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA, June 15 (Reuters) - Canada will extend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) income support that was brought in to help people get through temporary job losses caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.
Currently, the CERB can be claimed for up to 16 weeks, which means some would see their benefits expire as soon as July. As of June 4, the government had paid C$43.5 billion ($31.9 billion) in CERB benefits, and some 8.4 million people had applied for at least one payment, official data showed.
“We will continue to be there to support Canadians in need,” Trudeau said in a news conference, adding he would provide more details about the extension “in coming days”.
The announcement was in part an overture to the opposition New Democrat Party, whose leader Jagmeet Singh said he would not support a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday if the CERB were not extended.
“We believe there needs to be an extension of the CERB,” Singh said on Monday. “It’s not acceptable for millions of Canadians to not know what’s going to happen.”
Trudeau’s Liberal government depends on the support of at least one of three opposition parties in the House of Commons.
Until Sunday evening, there had been 98,787 total coronavirus cases in Canada and 8,146 deaths, but the spread has slowed significantly in recent weeks and all 13 provinces and territories are gradually reopening their economies.
Though the prime minister did not confirm that the U.S. border would remain closed to non-essential travel until the end of July, as Reuters reported last week, he did say there was a “broad consensus” among provincial premiers that the restrictions should remain in place.
$1 = 1.3620 Canadian dollars Reporting by Steve Scherer, Editing by Franklin Paul and David Gregorio