EDITORIAL: Remembering that this free government cash is not forever

Much-needed supports are here but many will certainly take advantage

Whether it’s CERB or CEWS or others, Canadians are learning new acronyms that stand for “free government cash” these days.

Make no mistake, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which pays $500 a week for up to 16 weeks for workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19 is much needed.

And on Monday, the portal opened for businesses to access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which will allow employers to retain or bring back laid off workers, with the government paying 75 per cent of their wages up to $847 a week. This will be crucial money for some companies, small and large, and their employees.

• READ MORE: More than 10,000 businesses apply for wage subsidy on opening morning: Trudeau

The economic crisis resulting from this pandemic is already historic, and the government response to it will be analyzed for decades to come. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating is up during this pandemic, but maybe many of those polled are some of those benefiting from emergency cash handouts.

There are many young adults, older people too, who are still working hard for minimum wage and who are seeing their peers laid off and eligible for $500 a week with CERB. At the B.C. minimum wage of $13.85 an hour, at 37.5 hours a week that’s less than $520.

With the weather getting nice, some people may find a way to take advantage of the free cash over the hard-earned variety.

“These massive programs will be like a gigantic experiment in freakonomics because in many cases they are having the opposite of their intended effect,” Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre told reporters this week.

Maybe, but these government benefits are intended as stop-gap measures, fingers in the dike, temporary help before we get back to whatever our new normal will be. And the immediate need was, and still is, real.

Some will take advantage to be sure, but without what the federal government provided as imperfectly and quickly as it did, the outcome might have been much worse.

Young people should be reminded that this is indeed an unprecedented set of circumstances, and they have much hard work ahead in their lives.

Black Press Media

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