changes ahead sign / gerenme

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the federal government is reshaping a suite of pandemic aid programs for businesses and individuals starting this weekend.

The federal wage and rent subsidies are scheduled to expire on Saturday, along with benefits for some unemployed workers.

Freeland says the measures were always designed to be temporary to get through the crisis.

She says the country is now in a very different phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, noting the labour market has recovered all the jobs lost last year and vaccination rates are rising.

In place of the broad wage and rent subsidies for businesses will be more direct subsidies to still-hurting sectors of the economy.

The Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program would provide wage and rent support to restaurants and tourism businesses, with a subsidy rate of up to 75%.

The Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program would provide wage and rent support to other businesses with deep loses, with a subsidy rate of up to 50%.

Applicants to both programs would need to demonstrate “significant revenue losses over the course of 12 months of the pandemic, as well as revenue losses in the current month,” the Department of Finance said in a release.

Businesses that face temporary new local lockdowns would be eligible for up to the maximum amount of the subsidy programs, during the local lockdown, regardless of losses over the course of the pandemic, it said.

The programs would be available until May 7, 2022, with the proposed subsidy rates available through to March 13, 2022. From March 13, 2022, to May 7, 2022, the subsidy rates would decrease by half.

In addition, the Canada Recovery Hiring Program would be extended to May 7, for eligible employers with current revenue losses above 10%, and the subsidy rate would increase to its previous 50%.

Mark Agnew, senior vice-president of policy and government relations with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, says the retooled government support programs would allow businesses that continue to be impacted by public health restrictions to survive until they can recover.

“This is the fair thing to do for businesses that are playing their part to protect public health,” he said in a statement.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) raised concern on Thursday that eligibility rules and thresholds could put support out of reach for many businesses.

CFIB will push the federal government to “be flexible in how it defines businesses in the tourism, restaurant and hospitality sectors for its targeted programs,” Kelly said.

Further, businesses that started after March 2020 should also be included in any new support programs if they meet eligibility criteria, Kelly’s statement said.

Freeland also says income support measures will only go to workers off the job because of a lockdown. She says the new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit would pay $300 a week to workers subject to a lockdown, including those who are ineligible for employment insurance.

The rate of pay is equal to what the Canada Recovery Benefit has provided to unemployed workers, over two million of whom have used the benefit over the last year and received $27 billion in aid.

Freeland says there is still a need for the benefits to help parents stay home to care for a sick child, or to stay home themselves if sick, which is why the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit will be extended into the new year — to May 7 — and individuals will be given two more weeks of eligibility.

She also says the government estimates the cost of the new measures at over $7 billion.