The federal government will extend into June two pandemic support programs that subsidize wages and rent for businesses as the country continues to struggle with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a press conference in Ottawa today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy will both be maintained at their current levels until June.
"This isn't the time to pull back on support for workers or business owners," said Trudeau. "It's the time to see people through what is hopefully the final stretch of this crisis."
The CEWS subsidizes up to 75 per cent of wages for workers who are kept on their employers' payrolls, while the CERS provides direct payments to qualifying renters covering up to 65 per cent of their rental payments. An additional top-up to the rent subsidy for businesses forced to close due to lockdowns will be maintained as well.
The programs, originally scheduled to expire on March 13, are being extended to June 5. Extending the programs is expected to cost taxpayers an additional $16 billion — $13.9 billion for the wage subsidy and $2.1 billion for the rent subsidy.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot definitively say that we've turned the corner," said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.
"That means that public health lockdowns and the supports that sustain them must continue to be available to Canadians where and when they are needed."
DPM <a href="https://twitter.com/cafreeland?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cafreeland</a> announced the CEWS maximum will stay at 75%, CERS at 65% & the CERS lockdown top-up at 25% until June. This is good news for small business owners & will help them plan staffing levels.—@CFIB
Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, said he welcomes the announcement.
"This is good news for small business owners and will help them plan staffing levels," Kelly tweeted.
As of Feb. 21, the federal government had paid out over $66 billion to more than 5 million Canadians through the wage subsidy, according to a government backgrounder. Another $1.6 billion has been paid to 129,000 organizations through the rent subsidy and lockdown support.