Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said emergency wage subsidy program is extended beyond June to encourage more employers to hire workers and “help kick-start” progressive economic reopening in the middle of “difficult times”.
The extension of this COVID-19 assistance program comes in light of record job losses, which Trudeau says are a “difficult” reminder of the number of people in need of financial assistance.
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.
Employers have applied for the 75 percent subsidy for more than 2 million workers since its launch last week, said Trudeau. The first payments are expected to be received by businesses this week.
The grant covers the first $ 58,700 of an employee’s salary, which represents up to $ 847 per week per employee and, as and when implemented, was to be in effect for 12 weeks, with retroactive to March 15, for businesses and 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. He encouraged companies that have laid off workers due to the pandemic to re-hire them with this funding.
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 unemployment could have been even higher if companies hadn’t found ways to adapt their business models , such as 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.
Trudeau said the government intends to further modify its federal assistance plans “so that assistance reaches as many workers, small businesses, families and young people as possible,” said Trudeau.
One demographic for whom Trudeau continues to promise help is the seniors, who he says will arrive “very soon.”
The federal government is also launching a new panel of experts and stakeholders to deepen the impact of the pandemic on specific sectors, said Trudeau.
Chaired by Minister of Industry Navdeep Bains, the advisory committee will examine the extent of the impact on various industries to better inform how the federal government is responding. While initial sectoral assistance has been offered to some, including in the areas of agriculture and energy, others are expected.
The new panel will meet regularly over the next 90 days, according to the government, indicating that a deeper economic bailout may still take place in months.
“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.