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The Trudeau government recently unveiled an all-new benefit for Canadians reeling from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic: the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

CERB would deliver $2,000 every four weeks for up to four months to workers who lose their income as a result of COVID-19. The new program combines and replaces two previously announced benefits — the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit — and raises the government’s spending on direct financial aid to $52 billion.

While CERB was part of the Liberals’ Emergency Response Act, which has already received royal assent, details on the program are still scant. Ottawa expects around four million applications for the new benefit, a source within the Canada Revenue Agency, which will be administering the program, told Global News.

Here’s what we know so far, along with some of the major questions that arise from the information the government has released as of March 26. Global News will be updating this article as more details emerge.

Who can apply for CERB?

CERB will be available to “all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19,” a press release from the Department of Finance says. That’s regardless of whether applicants would also qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) or not, the document adds.

CERB will apply to wage earners as well as contract workers and freelancers. Canadians will be able to access the benefit whether they have lost their income as a result of the economic repercussions of the health emergency or can’t earn an income because they are sick, quarantined, caring for someone with COVID-19 or have had to stop working in order to care for children who are either sick or home from school and daycare.

Canadians who are still formally employed but not receiving any income would also be able to receive CERB.

“This would help businesses keep their employees as they navigate these difficult times,” according to the Department of Finance.

The list of beneficiaries is long, but at least two major questions about eligibility have emerged so far.

First, it’s not clear whether the benefit would apply only to Canadians who have seen their income reduced to zero or whether workers who have seen a significant reduction in income but are still bringing in some money would also be able to apply.

“That’s the gap in their program, without a shadow of doubt,” said Lindsay Tedds, a professor of economics at the University of Calgary.

The second question is whether Canadians who would normally qualify for either EI would be able to choose whether to apply for it or CERB.

First, it’s not clear whether the benefit would apply only to Canadians who have seen their income reduced to zero or whether workers who have seen a significant reduction in income but are still bringing in some money would also be able to apply.

“That’s the gap in their program, without a shadow of doubt,” said Lindsay Tedds, a professor of economics at the University of Calgary.

The second question is whether Canadians who would normally qualify for either EI would be able to choose whether to apply for it or CERB.

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