$73B wage subsidy program opens, first payments expected May 7 as almost 10k businesses applied

Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced applications have opened for the $73-billion wage subsidy program to help businesses that have seen a decrease in revenue due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

First payments for eligible businesses of the support program are said to arrive on May 7, 2020. However, the Prime Minister has also said that it may take longer for the money to arrive for companies that have not signed up for direct deposit with the Canada Revenue Agency. 

The previously announced wage subsidy support program covers up to 75% of wages for businesses affected by COVID-19. All-sized businesses including charities and non-profit organizations are eligible for the support if they suffered a drop in gross revenues of at least 15% in March, and 30% in April and May. 

The program will be in place for a 12-week period, from March 15 to June 6, 2020.

As of 11:15 a.m. Eastern Time, the Prime Minister has said that almost 10,000 companies have applied for the program since it first opened at 6:00 a.m. today. The government is expecting hundreds of thousands more as companies across the country are waiting for the go-ahead to gradually reopen.

In his daily update, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the $73-billion wage subsidy the largest economic program in Canadian history and expects “hundreds of thousands” of applications will be made. 

“Right across the country, it’s going to keep businesses and workers connected and will give people certainty that they’ll have a job now and, in the months, to come to support themselves and their families,” said the Prime Minister.

“It means helping employers not just stay afloat through a tough time, but be ready to gear back up when things get better.”

Over the weekend, Ontario announced its plan to top up the salaries of some front-line workers, an offer made with federal assistance. Prime Minister Trudeau has also promised to work with other provinces and territories for similar help regarding a pay raise for essential workers. At this time, he has said that there has been progress and details would be announced soon. 

Wage Subsidy Program starts as some Provinces talk of reopening

The support program, which started accepting applications since 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time, opened as some provinces have begun discussing plans to reopen their economies. 

While the provinces of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have already outlined their plans for a gradual reopening, Ontario’s Premier, Doug Ford, is expected to announce his strategy for the province later today. 

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) expects that half of small businesses will apply for the wage subsidy support program, with many still unclear about how the program works and the eligibility requirements. 

“Unfortunately, the subsidy has already come too late for some businesses, who are not currently in a position to rehire laid-off staff,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a statement.

However, the CFIB President has said that the wage support program may be very useful for businesses as the provinces consider reopening business. 

“But with signs in some provinces that businesses may soon begin a phased approach to reopening, an ongoing wage subsidy may prove very useful in bringing back workers who have been laid off,” said the CFIB President.

The Prime Minister also faced questions regarding the details of how Canada will re-open its economy as provinces have started outlining their step-by-step approaches. 

At this time Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to emphasize that the national guidelines that are being developed with the provinces. Regarding the details around reopening, it will have to factor in the still-developing understanding around immunity to the virus.

Businesses also can access a government-backed loan, the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)  of up to $40,000, of which $10,000 is non-repayable.

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