OTTAWA – Canadians who rely on certain federal COVID-19 support programs will be able to continue receiving help for a few more months.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced extensions for businesses relief programs at his COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
“We are extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and lockdown support at their current levels until June,” Trudeau said, noting variants of concern continue to spread.
Today, Deputy Prime Minister Freeland announced that the government plans to extend the current rates for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Lockdown Support from March 14 to June 5, 2021. Details: https://t.co/sIFPZDrT3a pic.twitter.com/8GKMUycVBf
— Finance Canada (@FinanceCanada) March 3, 2021
“To date, the wage subsidy has supported more than five million people and the rent subsidy has been there for over 129,000 businesses and organizations,” he added.
The wage subsidy is available to eligible employers who have seen a drop in revenue during the health crisis. The program helps cover part of an employee’s wages, with the goal of helping businesses retire and retain workers.
The rent subsidy provides eligible businesses, non-profits, or charities with funds to help cover part of their commercial rent or property expenses.
Both programs, which will now run until June 5, were set to end on March 14.
“We’ve come along way in the fight against this pandemic, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” Trudeau said. “We’re making sure that the wage and rent subsidies continue through the spring and that the amount of support remains consistent.”
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland explained the maximum wage subsidy rate for active employees will remain at 75 per cent. The maximum rent subsidy rate will stay at 65 per cent.
Meanwhile, lockdown support will remain at 25 per cent, “providing hard-hit businesses with rent support of up to 90 per cent.”
“We are on track to defeating the virus,” Freeland noted, adding vaccines are rolling out in greater quantities.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel but we cannot definitively say that we’ve turned the corner,” Freeland said. “That means that public health lockdowns and the supports that sustain them must continue to be available to Canadians where and when they are needed.”
Trudeau also announced $518 million for scientific research in Canada — that’s expected to help fund more than 100 projects that could include studies on the virus.
CFIB applauds extensions
The extensions have been applauded by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, though the group says many questions remain unanswered.
“This is good news for small business owners,” CFIB President and CEO Dan Kelly said on Twitter, adding this will help business owners plan.
Kelly noted the CFIB was still waiting for information on “the formula to determine the subsidy levels, including which months one will compare revenue against.”
The federation will also be keeping an eye on whether any of the federal government’s programs have been opened up to new owners. Kelly says a year later, “thousands of businesses that opened in 2020 remain excluded from accessing any support.”
In addition to this, the CFIB says there are still other gaps that need to be addressed, such as the fast-approaching end of the Canada Emergency Business Account as well as what supports will be made available after lockdowns end and Canadians try to get back to “normal life.”
3. Outstanding #CEBA loans need to be processed immediately.
4. Major fixes to #CERS are needed as only 26% of small firms are using it. These include fixing the holdco/opco problem & allowing SMEs to pay partial rent.
— Dan Kelly (@CFIB) March 3, 2021
Meanwhile, the federal Conservatives say they support Canadians getting help amid this difficult time. However, the opposition is criticizing the Trudeau government’s response.
“We are almost a year into the pandemic and Justin Trudeau has failed to put forward an economic plan that will get Canadians back to work,” says Finance critic Ed Fast in a statement to NEWS 1130.