Senate committee recommends improvements to COVID-19 emergency programs

The Senate finance committee says there are still significant gaps in the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite efforts to adjust and improve emergency support programs launched in recent months.

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The upper house released an interim report on Tuesday recommending that the liberal government make further improvements to existing programs and better plan what happens when the benefits of COVID-19 run out.

"The government's response probably prevented the financial devastation of millions of Canadians and avoided what could have been a far worse economic collapse," says the report.

"[However], the committee is concerned that the government has not provided sufficient clarity to Canadians who will remain unemployed or unable to find full-time work and companies that wish to reopen. "

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The report says the federal government must specify how it will continue to support Canadians without sufficient employment or hours when the basic COVID-19 benefit for individuals runs out.

Canada's Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which pays $ 2,000 a month for people who have lost their jobs or been reduced due to COVID-19, is scheduled to end in September.

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More than 8.25 million people applied for the benefit and $ 54.7 billion was paid in direct payments as of July 5.

The Senate report recommends that the government consider reducing the amount paid to CERB beneficiaries on a decreasing scale based on income, rather than abruptly turning off the taps, which is currently planned for September 30.

Senators also say that the government should give "complete, fair and priority consideration" to a guarantee of permanent basic income to help people meet their basic needs in the future.

Also known as guaranteed income, the CERB-like benefit will replace a series of overlapping social support programs, where many fall into loopholes, according to the report.

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Senators also criticized the "lack of accountability and transparency" in relation to government spending and said that Parliament should return to its normal procedures.

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Parliamentarians meet for a special COVID-19 committee four times a week on the Commons, with a small number of deputies in the chamber and the others participating virtually.

"It is time to return to traditional procedures for approval by Parliament of government spending in order to provide appropriate oversight of government spending," recommends the report.

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