Trudeau unveils $82B COVID-19 emergency response package for Canadians, businesses

By | March 18, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a massive $82-billion aid package to help Canadians and businesses, including income supports, wage subsidies and tax deferrals amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The package includes $27 billion in direct support and another $55 billion to help business liquidity through tax deferrals.

Combined, the package represents more than three per cent of Canada’s GDP.

The supports aim to help Canadians can pay for rent and groceries, to help businesses continue to meet payroll and pay bills, and to stabilize the economy. Supports could start flowing in weeks, Trudeau said.

The emergency aid plan includes:

  • Temporarily boosting Canada Child Benefit payments, delivering about $2 billion in extra support.
  • New Emergency Care Benefit of up to $900 biweekly, up to 15 weeks, to provide income support to workers who have to stay home and don’t have access to paid sick leave. The measure could disburse up to $10 billion.
  • A six-month, interest-free reprieve on student loan payments. 
  • Doubling the homeless care program. 
  • Extending the tax filing deadline to June 1.
  • Allowing taxpayers to defer tax payments until after Aug. 31 amounts that are due after today and before September.

Trudeau said there is a “real” desire among the opposition political parties to help Canadians and he is confident that the measures can pass quickly in Parliament.

After the prime minister’s address, Finance Minister Bill Morneau is outlining details of the government’s package designed to help workers and businesses weather the economic impact of the pandemic.

A senior government official told CBC News that some of the money will be delivered directly to individuals through existing safety net programs, including employment insurance and the Canada Child Benefit.

The COVID-19 outbreak has wreaked havoc on the global economy, sending stock prices diving and forcing businesses to shut their doors as governments institute lockdowns and other social distancing measures to slow its spread.

Today, Canada and the United States reached an unprecedented deal to close their shared border to non-essential travel, as both countries try to restrict the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Trudeau announced Monday the government was closing Canada’s border to all travellers except for Canadian citizens, permanent residents and Americans, with exceptions for flight crew members, diplomats and some immediate family members of Canadians.

Canadian businesses of all sizes are feeling the pain from shutdowns, cancellations and public fear as the number of confirmed cases rises each day.

Tax filing deadline could be extended

Trudeau said Tuesday Parliament could be recalled to pass emergency economic measures and hinted that the government could allow an extension of the April 30 tax filing deadline.

The government is also considering invoking the Emergencies Act, which would grant it extraordinary powers to restrict movement and regulate and distribute critical supplies during the global pandemic.

Today’s announcement will be in addition to a $1 billion COVID-19 response package and supports for business already announced by the government.

Last week, Trudeau pledged $1 billion for increased public health measures. The package includes $275 million for additional research, such as vaccine development, and $200 million for federal medical supplies, supports for Indigenous communities and education efforts.

Another $500 million is going to support provincial and territorial governments.

The federal government has also waived the one-week waiting period for employment insurance.

In addition, Morneau announced last Friday the establishment of a $10 billion credit fund to lend money to businesses to help them continue operations.

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