Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to Bill C-2, an act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19.
For more than six months, we have been living through the worst health and economic crisis of our lives, the worst in the history of Canada and the world, in fact. The pandemic has affected every aspect of Canadians' lives, from their health, jobs and family life to how they can see their friends and family members. Businesses have had to close, supply chains have been disrupted, and children have had to stop going to school. Many individuals and families have experienced a drop in income. The past few months have been difficult for many people and businesses.
Fortunately, from day one, our government took extraordinary measures to protect Canadians and our economy. Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It represents 15.8% of our gross domestic product. Our plan has helped Canadians, and it continues to help Canadians. It has protected millions of Canadian jobs, supported families and kept businesses afloat across the country.
Things are starting to look up. The Canadian economy has recovered almost two-thirds of the jobs lost in March and April. More Canadians are working and schools have reopened, but there is still a lot of work ahead of us. Although two-thirds of jobs have been recouped, that means that one-third have not. Unfortunately, many Canadians, including many women, self-employed workers and workers in the gig economy, have not been able to go back to work.
COVID-19 is still here. We are in the middle of the second wave. We have not yet overcome the pandemic. It is still a threat to the health of Canadians and to our country's economy. That is why everyone must remain vigilant and listen to public health experts.
That is also why the government must continue to support Canadians and businesses. To help create more than one million jobs and return to pre-pandemic levels, we need to make investments. We need to help workers learn new skills, and we need to create hiring incentives for employers. That is what we are going to do.
We are seeing a gradual reopening of the economy, but a full recovery will take time. Now is not the time for austerity. I repeat: Now is not the time for austerity. We need flexible programs, programs that will help Canadians get back to work and that will also allow us to adapt to new waves of the pandemic.
This bill therefore proposes to create new programs, such as the Canada recovery benefit, which will replace the Canada emergency response benefit, the CERB. Self-employed workers and those who do not qualify for EI, and who are not working or have lost 50% or more of their income due to the pandemic, will be able to receive $500 per week for up to 26 weeks.
A similar program, the Canada recovery caregiving benefit, will be available to individuals who cannot work because they have to take care of a family member or because their child's school is closed due to the pandemic. These individuals would receive the same amount, namely $500 per week for up to 26 weeks.
Finally, the Canada recovery sickness benefit will provide $500 per week for up to two weeks to workers who are unable to work at least 50% of the time they would normally have worked in a given week because they are sick or self-isolating due to COVID-19.
These programs will be available for one year, because we know it will take a while for the economy to fully recover. The bill lays the foundation for what lies ahead, but we also need to ensure that the transition happens seamlessly.
Let us take a look back. In March, Parliament passed the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act. It is an important part of Canada's response to COVID-19, authorizing the government to make payments to Canadians and Canadian businesses affected by the pandemic.
Take the CERB, for instance. Millions of Canadians received this taxable $2,000 benefit every four weeks. This act also enabled us to implement the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program for small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and the lifeblood of Canadian communities. It is largely thanks to the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act that we are able to assist those who need it, help businesses and support our economy.
As I said earlier, the act was passed in March, at the beginning of the pandemic, and it included a provision stating that the act would remain in effect until the end of September. Six months later, we know more about the virus and its impact on our economy and our everyday lives. The bill proposes extending the application of the act until the end of the year, which is important. This would ensure that there is no interruption to the final payments under existing programs, such as the CERB, and enable us to begin transitioning to the new programs. It would also enable us to continue helping Canadians who need income support.
This may be the worst health and economic crisis of our generation, but it will not last forever. One day it will end. In the meantime, we will support Canadians for as long as the crisis lasts. We will get through these difficult times, and we will do it together. We will build a stronger, more resilient country, a country that works for everyone. That is why I am calling on all MPs in the House to support this bill.