Federal wage subsidy extended until end of August

CTV

By Rachel Aiello CTV Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the 75 per cent federal wage subsidy program is being expanded by three months, to the end of August to assist employers as they look to reopen their businesses.

The federal government is also expanding the eligibility for the financial aid program, and is committing $450 million towards temporary wage assistance for medical researchers whose work is unrelated to COVID-19 but has been impacted by the pandemic.

A week ago, shortly after the latest national jobs numbers showed Canada had experienced record-high job losses for two months running, Trudeau said the subsidy program would be extended past June 6, but no further details have been provided. 

Now, Trudeau says that the situation has changed from a benefit needed because many businesses were closed or making little income, to now businesses that are looking to reopen and need to be able to bring back workers or hire additional staff to accommodate the changed reality COVID-19 and the public health prevention measures require.

“Business owners: please take confidence from this announcement. You have some runway to catch your breath as you get restarted, so please, bring back your workers,” he said.

The subsidy—implemented to incentivize employers to keep staff on the payroll or bring back those who were laid off—was initially projected to cost $73 billion, but as of last week, a fraction of those funds had been rolled out with 1.7 million workers seeing their wages subsidized.

He said that Finance Minister Bill Morneau will have more to say about coming expansions to the eligibility criteria to help get more people back on the job.

Trudeau also said the 30 per cent revenue decline threshold is among aspects the government is reconsidering, as showing that level of losses shouldn’t become a barrier to growth. He said this aspect of the program will be one explored during talks with business and labour stakeholders in the weeks ahead.

The subsidy is on the first $58,700 of an employee’s salary, providing up to $847 a week per employee and, as it was implemented, it was set to be in place for 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, for businesses and charities.

The federal government has signalled that there’s hope, with more businesses using the wage subsidy, many of the millions of Canadians receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit would come off of that $2,000 per month program and be back on the job.

In addition to this, Trudeau announced that an added grace period is coming for parents who receive the Canada Child Benefit and people who claim the GST/HST credit. He said that while everyone should still try to file their taxes by the extended date of June 1, those who don’t get their paperwork in by then won’t automatically see their benefits cut off.

Both of those benefit programs will be continued until the end of September.

$450M FOR RESEARCHER WAGES 

And in an effort to avoid further layoffs, the prime minister has announced $450 million to help research institutions that have seen their labs close or are having to lay off staff as donations and other funds have been diverted to the COVID-19 fight.

This money will be going to universities and affiliated research institutes that have been affected by the pandemic, to provide temporary support on wages through federal granting agencies, Trudeau said.

“Science and research is our door to a brighter future, and that has never been clearer,” Trudeau said.  

Some 15,000 health researchers and lab technicians at hospitals and medical institutes across the country who have seen their work halted as it’s not COVID-19 related, and are facing funding pressures as the nation prioritizes the pandemic. 

Asked about the researchers’ predicament earlier this week, Trudeau said he would look into the issue and make sure “scientists get the support they need.” 

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