Federal government flooded with 500,000 applications for employment insurance

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government has received 500,000 applications for employment insurance, compared to just 27,000 for the same week last year.

Coronavirus crisis appears to have prompted EI application numbers to explode

Ottawa has waived the standard one-week waiting period to get EI benefits as part of its coronavirus stimulus package. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government has received 500,000 applications for employment insurance, compared to just 27,000 for the same week last year.

Trudeau says the government is receiving a historic number of calls from concerned Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I know people are anxious to get the help they deserve, and our government is working as fast as possible to support them," Trudeau told reports at what has become a daily press scrum for him, on the step of his temporary home at Rideau Cottage where he has been self-quarantining after his wife tested positive for COVID-19.

"This is, of course, an unprecedented situation, and it's putting a lot of pressure on our system, but we're on it. Thousands of public servants are working around the clock to help you."

New rules

Those laid off or otherwise unable to work right now are able to access EI. The criteria for those eligible was expanded earlier this week to include millions of workers who normally wouldn't be eligible.

Among the changes, the government has waived the standard one-week waiting period before benefits kick in, which will allow workers who are self-quarantining to be eligible for up to $573 a week faster under some circumstances.

More to come

With files from CBC News

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