Coronavirus Updates Canada: $71B Wage Subsidy Payments Won't Start For Six Weeks

COVID-19 subsidies make up the "largest economic program in Canada's history," the prime minister told reporters on Wednesday, as confirmed infections increase to more than 8,500.

by Anya Zoledziowski
Apr 1 2020, 12:37pm

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce more measures to support some of Canada's hardest hit industries amid the coronavirus-related economic downturn. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Updated at 2:30 p.m. (EDT): Canada’s emergency wage subsidy, which gives up to 75 percent payroll subsidies for businesses affected by the novel coronavirus, will cost an estimated $71 billion and payments won’t be available for at least six weeks.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau confirmed that businesses regardless of their size will be eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy starting next week as long as they’ve experienced a 30 percent drop in gross revenue or more over the past year.

Morneau emphasized that the hospitality sector, including restaurants and bars, will be eligible for the subsidy.

Businesses will have to reapply through a Canada Revenue Agency online portal every month.

Applicants will be required to prove the pre-crisis income of an employee, then the CRA will give the business a financial return, which is expected to go straight into payroll.

The subsidy will cover up to 75 percent of salaries up to $58,700 earned, or up to $847 per week.

The subsidy has to go straight into the pockets of staff, and Morneau said there will be “stiff penalties” for any business that takes advantage of the program.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is asking Canada’s parliament to reconvene after being shut down for weeks to finesse the “largest economic program in Canada’s history,” geared at fighting the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

The program includes the country’s wage subsidy and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB), which will offer people who have been laid off as a result of the pandemic $2,000 per month for four months.

Because the wage subsidy will allow businesses to rehire staff, Morneau said the CERB will likely cost the country $24 billion, as opposed to $40 billion.

Starting April 6, Canadians who have not yet applied for employment insurance can apply for the CERB, Trudeau said.

Starting April 6, Canadians who have not yet applied for employment insurance can apply for the CERB, Trudeau said.

People will be able to apply online and opt for payments via mail or direct deposits. Once payments start flowing, people will have to confirm that they are unemployed once per month.

People who are receiving the government’s COVID-19 wage subsidy are not eligible, Trudeau said.

Distancing to Last for Months

Canadian officials are saying that physical distancing will last for many more months as the country fights the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief medical officer, projected that physical distancing measures will last “many months,” and according to documents obtained by the National Post, Ottawa suspects COVID-19’s new status quo will last until at least July.

Physical distancing requires people to stay at home as much as possible and keep at least 6 feet away from others.

Toronto cancelled all scheduled events, festivals, conferences, and cultural programs, including the Pride parade, until at least July.

"This is going to be a very long battle," Mayor John Tory said.

There is a “zero chance” physical distancing measures will be lifted in April, British Columbia Minister of Health Adrian Dix told reporters on Tuesday.

New emergency orders

At least two provinces—B.C. and Ontario—have extended their states of emergency until mid-April, acknowledging that further extensions are likely.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued an emergency order late Tuesday night that gives police, First Nation constables, special constables, and bylaw officers the right to ask anyone on the street for identification if they decide to charge the person for breaching an emergency order.

Offenders could pay up to $100,000.

Ford’s announcement comes the same day his government said schools will be closed until at least May 4, and outlined expected hours of teacher-led learning.

Airlines, tourism sectors devastated

Canada’s tourism and airline industries have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

Banff, a popular mountain tourist destination in Alberta, reported a staggering 85 percent unemployment rate this week, while several airlines, including WestJet and Air Canada, have laid off thousands of employees.

Now, the federal government is trying to put together an aid package to bail out the two sectors, which employs more than 2 million people. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told reporters several times that more details will arrive soon.

COVID-19 cases skyrocketing

As of Wednesday morning, the country has more than 9,000 probable or confirmed cases and at least 101 deaths, most of which have been recorded in British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario. Here is the breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across Canada:

British Columbia: 1,013

Alberta: 754

Saskatchewan: 184

Manitoba: 103

Ontario: 2,392

Quebec: 4,162

Newfoundland and Labrador: 152

New Brunswick: 70

Nova Scotia: 147

Prince Edward Island: 21

Yukon: 5

Northwest Territories: 1

Nunavut: 0

There are more than 750,000 known COVID-19 cases globally, with more than 36,000 deaths.

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Clarification, April 2, 2020: A previous version of this article said "Ontario’s government has already given police, First Nation constables, special constables, and bylaw officers the right to ask anyone on the street for identification if they suspect someone is breaching an emergency order," when they can only ask you for ID if they are going to charge you.

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