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Extra weeks to be added to COVID-19 benefits for workers, parents, Trudeau says

Last Updated Feb 19, 2021 at 1:13 pm EST

FILE -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is adding 12 weeks of eligibility to two key benefits for unemployed workers and parents at home with children.

The extra life for the Canada Recovery Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit will raise the maximum number of weeks available to 38 from 26.

Trudeau also says the federal sickness benefit will be expanded to four weeks from two so workers can stay home if they’re feeling ill, or have to isolate because of COVID-19.

And employment insurance eligibility is also getting stretched, allowing people who qualify to claim up to 50 weeks, rather than the 26 the Liberals proposed when the system restarted in late September.

The decision comes hours after labour groups warned the government of a looming benefits cliff late next month when Canadians receiving EI or the recovery benefits would start maxing out their eligibility with job prospects bleak or non-existent.

The Canadian Labour Congress and other groups asked the Liberals to extend eligibility for benefits at least until the end of the year, which is how long they believe it might take before the workers in hardest-hit industries get back on the job.