The federal government of Canada announced on Friday a number of expansions for COVID-19 relief programs for business, including the official extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and additional loans through the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the changes during their noon briefing as they also announced a new rent relief program allowing businesses to apply directly.
The extension of CEWS follows a promise the Liberal government made during its Throne Speech. In addition to extending the subsidy to June 2021, the government also made updates to the program. Freeland stated the government is freezing the wage eligibility at 65 percent until December 19th.
CEBA is also being expanded and will make available to small businesses additional loans of $20,000, with $10,000 of those eligible to be turned into forgivable loans if paid back by a certain date. Businesses applying for the loans will be required to prove they have faced income losses specifically caused by COVID-19.
The prime minister and deputy prime minister made a point of noting that the changes to CEWS, CEBA, and the additional rent relief subsidy are specifically targeted towards businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. “This is not for everyone,” Freeland stressed, noting that the updated measures are meant to support businesses that are not operating at full capacity due to public health measures being implemented amid the second wave of the pandemic.
The decisions to update the programs, she added, where based on consultations with business leaders and organizations. She stated that programs are still subject to change based on ongoing consultations.
The rush to provide continued support to businesses comes as regions like Québec have moved back to stage two shutdown protocols. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is also reportedly considering moving back to phase two shutdowns, which would affect small businesses, including restaurants and fitness centres. The premier is expected to make an announcement about his decision later today.
The extension of the wage subsidy follows the federal government having expanded its scope over the summer. Major changes to the CEWS passed in the Senate at the end of July, extending the program to November 21, with the possibility of further extensions until December 31. Details of how the latest June 2021 extension will affect the program have yet to be revealed.