COVID-19: Federal Relief Program Update For Workers And Businesses

When our blog coverage of this pandemic got going on March 20 it was noted that government responses were coming fast and furious. That’s remained true to this day.

On the federal front, the government is close to rolling out its promised programs to help workers and businesses cope with the economic fallout from the virus control measures that have been put in place.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

This broad-brush program applies to anyone who has been laid off, is sick and is in quarantine, is at home caring for children and self-employed people who find themselves unable to earn income during the crisis.

To apply, you have to be over 15 and have earned $5000 plus in 2019 or the last calendar year (ie. March 2019 to March 2020). People who are currently on Employment Insurance are not eligible to apply, and if you’ve recently applied for EI your application will be folded into CERB.

CERB will provide $2000 per month for four months to every applicant and will be available between March 15-Oct. 3. You can apply through your Canada Revenue Agency My Account or My Service Canada account, and the online portals are supposed to be open on April 6. The CERB benefits will be taxable, but that will apply to the 2020 tax year.

According to the federal government, the first CERB payment should arrive within 10 days of you applying. And you can get more information about CERB and other programs Ottawa has put together to help individual Canadians and families deal with economic fallout from the pandemic at this Government of Canada website.

Small/Medium Businesses and Non-Profit Organizations

The federal government’s relief program is open to businesses and non-profits that have experienced a drop in revenue of at least 30 per cent because of the COVID-19 slowdown.  The government will cover up to 75 per cent of the first $58,700 of an employee’s salary, with the business/non-profit being encouraged to pay the remainder of their employees salaries.

The wage subsidies will be back-dated to March 15, and the government has said that businesses/non-profits that try to game the system will face “serious consequences”.

The federal government has also promised to help businesses with bridge-financing by guaranteeing loans of up to $40,000 which will be interest-free for the first year. As well, all GST and HST payments, as well as duties and taxes owed on imports, will be deferred until June.

You can get more information on support programs relevant to different sectors of the Canadian economy here.


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