Ottawa is bracing for an influx of four million applications under a new relief fund that will pay $2,000 a month to workers who have lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as the existing employment insurance program is struggling to cope with a recent surge of applications.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will help workers who are financially affected by job losses and social distancing measures to pay rent and groceries for up to four months. He added the government is also looking at boosting wage subsidies to businesses to avoid mass layoffs.

Mr. Trudeau told his daily news conference Wednesday that Ottawa will launch a streamlined application process for the CERB by April 6 to make it easier for people to apply for and receive federal money. The payments will be taxable income, and there will be a $200 income-tax deduction for a monthly total of $1,800.

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