Canadians who are quarantining after returning from a trip abroad can claim the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), according to one government official.

In an interview with La Presse over the weekend, Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough’s press secretary, Marielle Hossack, confirmed that the benefit could even be claimed by those who took non-essential trips abroad.

The revelation has caused concern among many of Canada’s leading politicians, who are now calling on the government to make changes to the eligibility requirements.

Here’s what you need to know:

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What is the CRSB?

The CRSB is one of the government’s new COVID-19 benefits, which replaced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in September.

The benefit was designed to support Canadians who may be out of work or working limited hours due to health circumstances related to COVID-19.

It offers $500 for each one-week period, up to a maximum of two weeks.

It can be claimed for any period between the dates of September 27, 2020, and September 25, 2021. 

Who is it for?

Per the government’s eligibility criteria, it’s for people who are isolating after testing positive for the illness, people who have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or health professional, and people who have underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.

To qualify for the CRSB, a claimant must also have lost over 50% of their weekly income due to COVID-19.

However, as recently confirmed by Marielle Hossack, people travelling outside of Canada can also apply for the benefit when they get back.

This includes Canadians who have taken non-essential trips abroad and are quarantining upon their return, as required under Canada's Quarantine Act.

This means travellers could get up to $1,000 for two weeks, despite actively going against Canada's ongoing travel advisory.

How are people responding?

After learning that non-essential travellers were allowed to claim the CRSB, several politicians have urged the federal government to reevaluate the rules.

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole took aim at the "loophole" via Twitter, describing it as "unacceptable" and urging the federal government to make immediate clarification.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet also described it as “absurd,” noting that anybody travelling for essential purposes (like work) would be unlikely to have lost over 50% income.

“If someone is travelling for pleasure, they are already being advised not to travel,” he said.

Conservative MP Alain Rayes shared a similar message, saying it is “incredible” that the government would support people enjoying discretionary travel, while also urging Canadians to stay at home.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough has responded to the criticism online, promising that the federal government is “actively looking at all available options to address this issue.”

This comes during the same week multiple Canadian politicians were caught taking non-essential trips abroad during the pandemic.

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