OTTAWA -- The Liberal government will extend the wage subsidy program until December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday.

This marks the second extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). On May 15, the government added an additional 12 weeks to the program, extending eligibility to August 29.

"For the last three months, you’ve seen me come out to talk with Canadians about what we’re doing to help you and your family, your employer, your local businesses deal with this pandemic. We’re going to continue to do that vital work," said Trudeau during a press briefing outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.

Announced on March 27, the CEWS provides qualifying businesses and non-profits funding for 75 per cent of employee wages, retroactive from March 15.

The objective of the program is to keep employees on the payroll so businesses can rebound more quickly when restrictions are lifted and the economy restarts. The CEWS had a slow uptake, but has increased in popularity as more Canadians transition off of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

In an interview on CTV’s Question Period in May, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough attributed the program’s rocky start to barriers in the application process.

"It’s been slower than expected. I think businesses are having to put a lot of time and effort into their applications because you have to dig into your payroll – who earned what and when," she said.

Since then, the government has been consulting with the business community and promoting its benefit amid calls from opposition that the Liberal’s are disincentivizing Canadians from returning to work as CERB application numbers balloon.

As of July 5, just under 19 million Canadians had applied for the benefit and more than $54 billion had been paid out.

The new $82. 3 billion CEWS projection, outlined in last Wednesday’s fiscal snapshot, is a stark increase from the original $45 billion estimate.

As of July 6, 581,800 out of a total of 587, 060 submissions had been approved. This equates to slightly more than $18 billion.