Feds expanding COVID-19 loan eligibility, procuring more PPE as reopening underway

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that the government is once again expanding the eligibility for emergency business loans, and has entered into new agreements to expand domestic production of emergency medical supplies needed in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

The government has been offering companies government-guaranteed loans of up to $40,000 to cover the costs of keeping their enterprises afloat during the COVID-19 crisis, and now, with more businesses pushing towards reopening, the prime minister said additional types of businesses will qualify.

“If you are the sole owner-operator of a business, if your business relies on contractors, or if you have a family-owned business and you pay employees though dividends, you will now qualify,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said that to date more than 600,000 businesses have taken up the government’s offer of these loans, but that he knows more business owners could use the help. He cited hair salon owners with stylists who rent chairs and independent gym owners with contracted trainers as examples.

A month ago, the federal government expanded the eligibility criteria for the program, called the Canada Emergency Business Account.

The program is targeted at small- and medium-sized businesses, and as expanded, companies who paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019 are eligible to receive a loan.

If the business can repay the balance of the loan by the end of 2022, up to $10,000 will be forgiven.

Now, businesses without a minimum of $20,000 in payroll can apply if they have filed either a 2018 or 2019 tax return and have expenses between $40,000 and $1.5 million per year, Small Business Minister Mary Ng told reporters on Tuesday.

“While this expansion will help thousands more businesses to access the support, we know that there are still some business owners who operate out of their personal bank account, as opposed to a business account, or they are new, or they have yet to file a tax return. We're working hard to develop solutions to help these businesses through this challenging time. Our work is far from done, and we will have more to say about that soon,” Ng said.

MORE MEDICAL SUPPLIES COMING

After two days without a press conference in front of his residence, on Tuesday Trudeau resumed his regular updates on the COVID-19 situation in Canada and provided an update on the push to procure medical supplies and personal protective equipment.

Trudeau said that over the next few weeks, hundreds of thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment will be delivered to provinces and territories, as demand increases with more and more aspects of society beginning to reopen.

That includes certain retail businesses being able to reopen on Tuesday in Ontario and British Columbia, with new public health parameters in place.

“Even as Canadians return to work, with parts of the economy beginning to restart, our strategy remains constant: to continue buying proactively in a highly competitive market,” Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand told reporters during a ministerial update.

Further breaking down the latest procurement efforts, Anand said that in the past week 34 planeloads of PPE have arrived in Canada, and Canada has received millions more face shields and surgical masks, as well as thousands more litres of hand sanitizer.

Canada is also set to receive an order of 500,000 more N-95 respirator masks from the United States.

Trudeau said in addition to buying supplies from abroad, domestic production is continuing to increase.

Facing consistent questioning about a shortage of personal protective equipment, new supports were given to Canadian manufacturers to pivot their production lines to make essential supplies in Canada.

He said that, to date, the federal government has entered into 15 contracts with Canadian companies that have re-tooled to provide equipment.

This includes contracts to manufacture face shields, test kits, ventilators, and medical gowns.   

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