The federal government has been rolling out supports for families and businesses at a fast-moving pace since the COVID-19 pandemic started affecting the economy and the lives of Canadians.
The latest announcement from Friday, a 75 per cent wage subsidy for small business, was part of a slew of initiatives including small businesses qualifying for up to $40,000 in loans, with up to $10,000 forgiven.
It’s the equivalent to $30 billion in loans, interest free, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
That’s on top of Parliament approving $52 billion in direct financial aid and another $55 billion in tax deferrals on Wednesday.
Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison called Wednesday’s session in the House of Commons ‘extraordinary’ given the circumstances, with only 12 parliamentarians in the chamber to pass emergency legislation.
“What was interesting and really good, at the end of the day, I think we’re now up to about $100 billion in relief, so it really shows it’s a non-partisan approach to helping our people in our communities and Kootenay-Columbia with getting the finances they need as soon as possible,” Morrison said.
“It was successful at the end of the day. There was a few challenges of course, but at the end of the day, we agreed that we needed to get some funding out, especially for some of the people who have been sent home because of closed businesses and getting them onto EI [employment insurance], getting the ones who don’t qualify for EI to a process — that isn’t out yet, but will be soon — and it’s helping our small business people out as well.”
Small business has been hit one of the hardest hit areas of the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses across the country are struggling and have closed storefronts to the public, while others adapt to a new reality by operating through websites and social media to provide home deliveries of goods and products.
“It’s going to be a process that we’re going to have to help those individuals and those companies to find the right process to be getting some assistance, because a lot of them, their margins are so slim before COVID-19 that having to close is just devastating,” Morrison said. “A lot of people didn’t have thousands of dollars in their bank account for a rainy day; they were going from cheque to cheque.”
Nearly half a million EI applications were filed during the week of Friday, March 20, according to Prime Minister Trudeau, who announced the figures during one of his daily press conferences. That number has only likely risen over the last seven days.
In addition to additional funding for a massive influx of EI claims for employees and wage-earners, the federal government has also provided support through the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provides $2,000 a month up to four months.
The CERB benefit applies to those who are contract workers and self-employed who would otherwise not be eligible for EI, according to the federal government.
Morrison alluded that there will be some more processes coming online, for example, deferring taxes, increasing GST credits and working some financial institutions to defer mortgage or business loan payments.
“The government has announced these programs, so they have a plan, but the execution isn’t out there for most of them — how to do this or what exactly the relief is going to be,” Morrison said.
Homeowners who have mortgage payments and experienced job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic should contact their financial institutions to address their specific situations, according to Morrison.
The B.C. government recently announced relief for renters and landlords, offering up to $500 a month for three months, which is being distributed through BC Housing. The province has also frozen rent increases and placed a moratorium on evictions.
Those measures are all part of a $5 billion support package announced by Premier John Horgan for B.C. residents and businesses. Provincially, there is also a one-time $1,000 benefit available for people who have lost income because of COVID-19.
Morrison noted his office has been getting hundreds of calls a day from people looking for help to navigate and apply for the federal government assistance. He suggests that anyone looking to access EI assistance to set up an account online through Service Canada, so they can immediately apply when the application process opens on April 6.
If anyone has questions or needs assistance navigating the federal government assistance programs, Morrison’s office can be reached via email or through his Cranbrook constituency office at 250-417-2250. Links to federal government assistance programs are also available on his website.
With files from the Canadian Press