Federal Government Broadens Access to Wage Subsidy

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the broad eligibility requirements for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy:

  • Businesses will be eligible if their revenues have decreased by at least 30 per cent due to COVID-19
  • The wage subsidy will be available to non-profit organizations and charities, as well as companies of all sizes
  • The number of employees does not impact eligibility for the wage subsidy

Additional details regarding the wage subsidy program, including projected costs, how to access the program and timing, are expected to be announced tomorrow by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Small Business Minister Mary Ng.

For workers, the wage subsidy will provide up to 75 per cent of salary on the first $58,700 earned, up to $847 per week. The subsidy will be backdated to March 15th. If possible, businesses are encouraged to pay the remaining 25 per cent of salary. The Prime Minister also called for good faith in the program, noting that there would be serious consequences for taking advantage or gaming the system.

The federal government’s economic response has evolved into a three-point plan of direct supports to prepare the economy to rebound:

  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to protect jobs
  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit to protect those who lose their jobs or income due to COVID-19
  • Access to credit for businesses of all sizes to ensure cash flow

The ready access to credit, in addition to previously announced tax deferrals, may provide a bridge for businesses to ensure that they are able to maintain payroll, and perhaps even rehire employees who have been laid off in the past two weeks. The government has also indicated that beyond the wage subsidy, more will be done to support industries which have been hit harder by COVID-19, including oil and gas, airlines, and tourism.

Other COVID-19 Response Measures

  • The Standing Committee on Health will meet on March 31st by teleconference, receiving a briefing on the COVID-19 response from Health Canada officials, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Border Services Agency, and Global Affairs.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces has developed a plan to mobilize up to 24,000 regular and reserve members to intervene to support COVID-19 efforts, built on three pillars:
    • Slow the spread
    • Support vulnerable communities, including Indigenous, northern and arctic communities
    • Assist the provinces and territories with logistics and support municipalities, if needed
  • The Forces are also preparing to support upcoming natural disaster challenges, including spring floods and forest fires. While the Forces are not planning to deploy immediately, there is daily contact with the provinces and the Armed Forces is prepared to respond when a provincial request is received (no province has yet requested assistance).
  • As of today, added travel restrictions apply to domestic air and rail travel, with boarding being denied to anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • On Sunday, the Prime Minister announced additional community supports for vulnerable Canadians:
    • $7.5 million to the Kids Help Phone to strengthen mental health support for young people

$9.0 million through the United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services for seniors, such as delivery of groceries and medication and connect to outreach and community support.

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