PM updates businesses aid eligibility, says military ‘gearing up’ for COVID-19 response

By | March 30, 2020

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that the military is “gearing up” to join the federal approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, and the federal government is expanding the wage subsidy for Canadian businesses, no matter their size.

“Over the past few weeks the Canadian Armed Forces have been gearing up to support our efforts and our communities, as we fight COVID-19,” Trudeau said.

He said that while the federal government has not yet received a formal request from a province or territory for the military’s intervention, whether sending supplies or to aid with the coming flood or forest fire seasons, they are ready to respond.

As part of the daily ministerial update on the federal plan to combat the novel coronavirus, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance will have more to say about flood preparedness, given the spring thaw has begun, as well as other ways the Canadian Armed Forces are planning to handle any calls to assist pandemic response efforts.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Health Minister Patty Hajdu, and Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez will also be providing more information about other aspects of the federal response. 

Wage subsidy details

On Monday, Trudeau announced that any Canadian businesses whose revenue has decreased by 30 per cent or more due to the pandemic will be eligible for the 75 per cent wage subsidy promised, regardless of the number of employees they have.

This comes after Friday’s announcement of the major increase to the wage subsidy for small- and medium-sized businesses, aimed at helping them keep employees on staff. Charities and not-for-profit organizations are also able to apply, as well as companies big and small, the prime minister said Monday.

“This is about making sure that people are still getting paid whether they work for a business that employs 10 people or 1,000 people,” Trudeau said, noting that many have had to “get creative” to keep money coming in.

The emergency wage subsidy is being back-dated to March 15, and is an increase to the initial commitment of a 10 per cent subsidy. It comes alongside a special emergency guaranteed business loan of up to $40,000, as well as a deferral of customs duties, HST and GST payments.

The subsidy will be on the first $58,700 earned, meaning up to $847 a week.

The announcement comes with a warning from Trudeau to businesses, not to misuse the program or they’ll face “serious consequences.” He also encouraged companies who can still afford to pay their employees their full salaries, or the 25 per cent not covered by the government, to do so.

“Every dollar of this should go to workers,” Trudeau said.

“This unprecedented situation calls for unprecedented action, and it calls for good faith and trust between everyone involved.”

Trudeau’s address from Rideau Cottage marks the beginning of most Canadians’ third week of life upturned by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Domestic travel restrictions begin

Another major travel restriction is coming into effect at noon on Monday: Any Canadian traveller who shows COVID-19 symptoms will be banned from boarding any domestic flights or trains, in an effort to limit the spread of the virus between provinces and cities.

Stateside, late Sunday U.S. President Donald Trump announced an extension on the national public health distancing guidelines through to April 30, as a new Nanos survey shows that 67 per cent of Canadians expect the health crisis to get worse in the next month here as well.

Canadian officials continue to work to negotiate with other countries to bring stranded Canadians home from international locations with varying degrees of lockdowns.

Was to be budget day

Monday was also set to be the day that Finance Minister Bill Morneau presented the 2020 federal budget, but that is no longer happening.

It remains unclear when the federal government will present an overall status update on the state of the Canadian economy, but last week the Parliamentary Budget Officer projected that the deficit could balloon to $112.7 billion for this coming fiscal year, in part because of the billions in stimulus and direct aid the government has earmarked, but also on account for reduced economic growth.

There will also be more spending coming, with Morneau recently mentioning the hospitality, airline and energy sectors as industries he’ll have more to say on “in the very near term.”

“In the coming days, what we want to do is give people a more full understanding of how the impacts will be mitigated to the best extent possible in this challenging time,” he said last week.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam has said this week’s infection trends will provide key insights into the efficacy of Canada-wide isolation measures so far in flattening the curve.

As of Monday morning there are 6,320 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada, with the disease present in every province and territory, with the exception of Nunavut.  

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