Awaiting go-ahead to gradually reopen, thousands of businesses apply for wage subsidy: PM
OTTAWA -- Within hours of the major wage subsidy program launching Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says approximately 10,000 businesses had already applied, and the government is expecting hundreds of thousands more as companies across the country await the go-ahead to gradually reopen.
“That gives you a sense of just how many people this program will help. Right across the country, it’s going to keep businesses and workers connected. And that gives people certainty that they’ll have a job now, and in the months to come, to support themselves and their family,” Trudeau said, as he continued to emphasize that while talks of getting the economy back up and running are happening, the timing remains unknown and dependent on the COVID-19 curve flattening.
Touting the newly opened and long-anticipated program during his daily COVID-19 address, Trudeau said the first payments to cover of 75 per cent of the first $58,700 of an employee’s salary will arrive to businesses by May 7, if they’ve signed up for direct deposit.
“We all know a local salon or a gym that’s had to close, a neighbourhood restaurant or shop that’s really struggling. And more importantly, we all know people who work there. They deserve a hand to get through this. And that’s what this wage subsidy is for,” said Trudeau.
Trudeau had expanded the scope of, and eligibility for the program a handful of times since first promising it last month. It passed Parliament on April 11, and will provide up to $847 a week per employee for 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, for companies big and small, as well as charities.
Last week, a calculator was launched on the Canada Revenue Agency website so businesses could determine in advance how much they’d be able to claim. The CRA is planning to batch-process the first week’s applications at the end of the week.
Small Business Minister Mary Ng said that for applications that require additional checks or more information from the employer, secondary verification would push back the initial funding being sent by up to 72 hours.
Trudeau said, to-date, there have been 300,000 views of the online calculator.
The prime minister has called the $73 billion wage subsidy the largest economic program in Canadian history, and officials have said they expect “hundreds of thousands” of applications will be made for businesses to keep employees on staff as they await the reopening of the economy.
'ONE OR THE OTHER'
Trudeau also reemphasized that for Canadians whose workplaces can’t hire them back on, or if they are unable to find a job due to the ongoing pandemic, then they can access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, but people cannot claim both.
He cautioned that the funding will be clawed back later, if people have received more than they are entitled to.
“Because of the uncertainty, because of the application process, it is possible that people will have received both the CERB, and the wage subsidy. In that case, they will have to over the course of the coming months, pay one of them back. So, people should keep that in mind that if you're getting both, you should probably put one of them aside,” Trudeau said.
To date, the government says they have received 7.28 million unique applications, and nearly 10 million applications in total. So far, $24.25 billion has been paid out through this $2,000 a month benefit program for out of work Canadians.
After Trudeau noted that talks were ongoing with the opposition parties about advancing legislation to pass the new measures promised to students last week, CTVNews.ca confirmed that on Wednesday the House of Commons will be recalled to study, debate and likely pass the $9-billion package.
Over the weekend, Ontario revealed its plan to top up the salaries of some front-line staff, an offer made with federal assistance. Trudeau said that he will have more to say about similar help in other provinces in the coming days, as negotiations continue to pay low-income essential workers more at this time.
The prime minster continues to face questions about the patchwork of economic re-opening plans being rolled out across the country. Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, have already spelled out their step-by-step approaches with loose time frames contingent on a continuing reduction of new coronavirus cases.
Ontario and Quebec released their initial economic and societal reopening plans on Monday, though these provinces continue to have the highest number of COVID-19 cases and have called in the military to help handle the numerous outbreaks in long-term care homes.
In Quebec, the plan includes reopening elementary schools and daycares on May 11 if the state of COVID-19 in the province's hospitals continues to remain stable, whereas in Ontario the “roadmap” was released without any specific dates but would allow select workplaces that can abide by public health guidance to reopen.
Trudeau continues to emphasize that the reopening guidelines being developed with the provinces will have to factor in the still-developing understanding around immunity to the virus, as well as the need for sufficient personal protective gear for employees who work in close contact with other people.
He said the approaches are intended to be shared and agreed to, and are not a federal edict. The details are expected to be released “in the coming days,” he said.
“Different provinces and territories will be able to move at a different pace. But we need clear, coordinated efforts from coast-to-coast-to-coast. And no matter where you live, you need to continue following the recommendations from public health officials that will keep everyone safe,” he said, adding that already the approach being taken by provinces and territories are in-line with the discussions on re-opening.
Further, Trudeau cautioned that as much as people want life to get back to the normal once known, that won’t be happening for quite some time.
“There will be differences, even a few years from now, that we will have learned from dealing with this global pandemic,” Trudeau said.
As of when Trudeau began his address there were 47,346 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada and 2,617 deaths.
The federal projections and modelling released on April 9 had estimated that, under the current public health measures, up to 44,000 Canadians could die from COVID-19 in the months ahead.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said late last week that they are ready to release updated modelling imminently.