Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Good morning, everyone.
I'm pleased to be here with you today to speak about the emergency measures taken within the portfolio of Employment and Social Development Canada, or ESDC, to support Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to talk about their impact on the situation of women and on gender equality.
These emergency measures, like all the measures implemented by the Government of Canada, reflect our commitment to equality, fairness, inclusiveness and diversity.
Let me get right into it. Given the speed of the severity by which the pandemic struck our country, we made a decision to act as quickly as possible in order to assist Canadians by issuing financial assistance immediately. We lost no time. We acted swiftly and promptly with the CERB, the student benefit, wage subsidies and other measures. We accepted that our response would not be perfect, but we were committed to being quick and ensuring we could deliver. Canadians were relying on us, and we would be there for them.
We know that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women, putting them at greater risk of job loss, poverty, food insecurity, loss of housing and domestic violence, and I'd like to provide an overview of some of our measures.
As the pandemic made its way to Canada and began having tremendous impacts on our economy and our daily lives, our government acted quickly to create the Canada emergency response benefit. This benefit was created to help all Canadians who stopped working due to COVID-19.
I'll be honest with you: the CERB was conceived of, designed, approved, funded and legislated within a week. This was a massive new program being delivered to millions of Canadians, and the timelines were quite extraordinary. In this incredible timeline, there was no formal GBA+ study done. I say this because I want to be frank with you, but this in no way meant that we did not consider the needs and impacts on women at every decision point.
There were things that we absolutely knew. By delivering the CERB outside the EI system, we knew that we would be supporting Canadians with precarious work and Canadians who weren't eligible for EI. This meant that the most vulnerable workers, including women and persons with disabilities, would be supported—Canadians who would not have been supported through EI.
We also knew that people would not be able to work for reasons other than job loss, such as sickness or quarantine, elder care and child care. We knew that women would be the most impacted if the income support did not take into consideration these broader realities. We knew that women are generally overrepresented in minimum wage and low-paying occupations, such as educational services and food services, which we anticipated would be the hardest hit by the pandemic, and we knew how important it was to deliver a benefit that addressed the pandemic reality for every worker—women in particular.
This benefit ensures that all eligible workers receive $500 per week. The Canada emergency response benefit, or CERB, supports workers who have lost their jobs or who are unable to work because they are ill, they must self-isolate, or they need to take care of children or dependants as a result of the pandemic.
It also provides financial support to workers who are still employed but making under $1,000 every four weeks. To give you a sense of the scope of the need, more than 8 million workers have been paid more than $53 billion in benefits through the CERB. Fifty-one per cent of CERB recipients are men, 48% are women and 1% identify as gender diverse.
We recently extended the CERB by eight weeks to a maximum of 24 weeks. This is to ensure Canadians continue to get the support they need as the economy reopens. This is particularly important for women, who are facing the reality this summer of not being able to work even if they have a job to go back to, due to a lack of child care or summer camps. We recognize that our best strength for a recovery is getting people back into the labour force. This is why, with the extension of the CERB, we are encouraging workers who are able to return to work to do so, provided it's reasonable based on their individual circumstances. We are very realistic about the barriers being faced by women as they return to work.
Now, to go over to students and youth, we also know and have known from the beginning that this pandemic would have an impact on younger Canadians, and we had to think of innovative and targeted ways to support them. One significant way was helping students and youth through the Canada emergency student benefit. Students who are not receiving the CERB could be eligible to receive $1,250 per month during these important summer months that so many of them count on for financial stability.
As we know, women may account for almost two-thirds of the student population in universities in Canada. As a result, this financial support significantly helps women.
Keeping in line with our GBA+ lens, we decided that students with permanent disabilities and students with dependants would receive an additional $750 per month. This recognizes the additional expenses being incurred by students who are parents and by students with disabilities, as well as the additional barriers to employment being faced by female students, including the already mentioned lack of child care options this summer.
The CERB and the CESB have been providing much-needed support to millions of Canadians and to millions of Canadian women. Let me now highlight two other initiatives that are benefiting women in particular.
First, to help families, as was said, our government provided a one-time enhancement of $300 per child for families receiving the CCB. Starting on July 20, the CCB will be increased once again to keep up with the cost of living.
Second, recognizing the particular vulnerability of our seniors in this pandemic and understanding that 54% of the Canadian population over 65 are women, we are providing a one-time tax-free payment of $300 for seniors who are eligible for old age security, with an additional $200 for seniors who are eligible for the GIS. Eligible seniors, as my colleague said, are receiving this one-time payment this week, and I know that this will be a welcome support for seniors in Canada.
I'll turn now to persons with disabilities. In addition to women facing heightened barriers and challenges during this pandemic, persons with disabilities are also disproportionately impacted.
According to the latest available data, more women than men have disabilities in Canada. The ratio is 2.1 million women to 1.7 million men. Currently, women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable because they very likely work in the hardest hit sectors of the economy. In addition, 60% of them are victims of violence.
We've been working with the disability community since the beginning. In the spirit of “nothing without us” and the Accessible Canada Act, and to support Canadians with disabilities, we established the COVID-19 disability advisory group.
The advisory group has raised key issues that affect Canadians with disabilities in the areas of health care, employment and social services, to name a few. They put an intersectional disability lens on the pandemic. They worked with the Public Health Agency on guidelines to ensure that people with disabilities are protected, listened to, supported and accommodated as necessary during this pandemic. They raised issues about triage and visitor policies with the health minister, who in turn brought these concerns to her provincial and territorial counterparts, which resulted in significant policy changes.
Thanks in part to the advice—