Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the emergency wage subsidy program was extended beyond June, with the goal of encouraging more employers to rehire workers and “help start” the gradual economic reopening.
It is the first federal assistance program deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic to receive an extension, and it comes in light of record job losses, which Trudeau says are a “difficult” reminder of the number of people who need financial help.
The Canadian economy has lost about three million jobs since March, according to Statistics Canada, while millions of other Canadians have seen their incomes drop significantly due to the closure of almost all non-core businesses.
Since its launch last week, employers have applied for the 75 percent subsidy for more than 2 million workers, said Trudeau. The first payments were to be received by companies this week.
As it is implemented, the grant covers the first $ 58,700 of an employee’s salary, which represents up to $ 847 per week per employee for 12 weeks, with retroactive effect to March 15, large and small businesses, as well as for charities.
The grant has been implemented to encourage employers to keep staff on the payroll, and the Prime Minister has said that more details on how long employers can claim federal funding will be released next week.
The extension comes as questions arise as to whether Canadians and businesses will be left on their own when many of the existing federal assistance programs expire next month, even though the current pace of gradual economic reopening indicates that many Canadians will not return to work in then.
The Prime Minister called the $ 73 billion wage subsidy the largest economic program in Canadian history, and is a significant part of the more than $ 150 billion in assistance that the federal government promulgated in the past two months.
“Right now, Canadians are suffering from this pandemic. Everyone has their own story, but it all comes down to a very difficult time for many people, “said Trudeau.
The other key element is the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provides unemployed Canadians with a financial link of $ 2,000 a month. At least 7.7 million people have requested it.
“As the provinces and territories begin to reopen gradually over the coming months, and as the CERB becomes less and less necessary, this grant will play an even more important role,” said Trudeau on Friday.
In addition, more than half a million businesses have each accessed up to $ 40,000 in government guaranteed loans through the Canada Emergency Business Account to cover the costs of keeping afloat. of their businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. If businesses can repay the loan balance by the end of 2022, up to $ 10,000 will be forgiven.
Responding to the “staggering” number of jobs in April, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said that the unemployment rate could have been much worse if businesses had not found ways to adapt their business models, like offering virtual or delivery services.
“The key question is how quickly companies can or will rehire after the economy reopens,” Canadian Chamber President Perrin Beatty said in a statement.
“No sector is spared, no province is spared, no community is spared by this,” Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said Friday in an interview with CTV News Channel, reacting to the latest figures. She said the government is forecasting the number of jobs in May to see how many Canadians have returned to work as a result of the wage subsidy.
“We are talking about what the next phase of support will look like,” she said.