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Few to use new sickness benefit for COVID-19 diagnosis, PBO suggests in new report

OTTAWA — Parliament’s spending watchdog says relatively little of the government’s new sickness benefit will go to people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

In a report this morning, the parliamentary budget officer estimates that only $50 million out of the estimated $655 million of the new sickness benefit will go to workers who have COVID-19.

The office estimates that the vast majority of spending this fiscal year and next will go to people who have to take time off for other illnesses, or because they would be at high risk if they caught COVID-19.

A separate costing note from Yves Giroux’s office also estimates that the majority of spending on a new 26-week caregiving benefit will go to parents caring for children.

Giroux’s report says that of the $1.4 billion estimated net cost for the leave this fiscal year and next, that over $1 billion will go to parents who need to stay home to care for children who would be at high risk if they caught COVID-19, and a further $306 million because either a child or their classmate actually has the illness.

But the reports warn that the estimates of the suite of measures replacing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit are subject to the path of the pandemic and COVID-19 case counts.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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