Today, March 30, 2019, we were provided with details of Government of Canada’s (the “Government”) programs aimed at responding to the economic fallout of COVID-19. At his morning press conference, Prime Minister Trudeau particularised the Government’s three pronged plan to assist businesses and individuals though the economic uncertainties occasioned by the global pandemic.

The three prongs are:

  • the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (“CEWS”) – which will protect jobs;
  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) – which will help those who have lost their jobs; and
  • a set of government funded loans which will help businesses in need of credit when and while revenue streams are on hold.

The first prong, the CEWS, is intended to help businesses avoid layoffs and meet their payroll obligations. The CEWS will cover 75% of the first $58,700 of every employee’s salary and will be backdated to March 15, 2020. This amount is equivalent to $847 per week. The CEWS is available to all businesses in all sectors, this includes charities, non-profits partnerships, sole proprietorships and is available regardless of the size of the operation or the sector in which it operates. Further, there is no cap on the number of employee wage subsidies for which a business may apply.

In order to qualify for the CEWS, a business must demonstrate that it has lost 30% or more of its revenue due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications for the CEWS will be available in the coming weeks.

The  Prime Minister stressed that good faith and transparency on the part of the recipients of the CEWS is expected. Despite the broad availability of the CEWS, the Prime Minister has asked that businesses that could afford to pay their employees’ regular salaries, or that could afford to pay the 25% of those salaries not covered by the CEWS, continue to do so. He also stressed that every dollar received from the CEWS must be put toward paying employee salaries and wages and warned that businesses that are found to have abused the CEWS will face “serious consequences.” We expect further details of these “serious consequences” to be announced during tomorrow’s daily briefing by the Prime Minister.

The second prong, the CERB,  is intended to protect those who have lost their jobs or income due to COVID-19. This benefit will provide eligible Canadians with $2000 per month, for up to four months, starting on March 15, 2020. This benefit, while taxable, will not be taxable at source and, as such, will put $2,000 in the hands of eligible Canadians. The Government estimates that the online application portals for the CERB will be available by early April.

However, applicants are advised to set their MyCRA accounts to “direct deposit” in advance of the CERB launch date to ensure that they begin receiving funding as soon as it is available.

For those who have already applied for EI Benefits, there is no need to reapply. Existing EI Benefit applications will be transferred to the CERB as soon as it becomes available. Please see our previous article for a detailed analysis of the CERB.

Finally, the third prong of the Government’s response plan will make low interest financing available to businesses in order to fill any remaining gaps in revenue that are not addressed other government programs. See our previous article for analysis of the Canada Emergency Business Account and the Small and Medium Sized Enterprise and Loan Guarantee System.

We will continue to monitor and provide up-to-date analysis of the Federal and Provincial Governments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. By staying informed of these developments, we can better advise you on the steps that you, your employees, and your business can take to navigate through this uncertain time.

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