As days continue to pass in this time of public health and economic crisis, as a country we are coming to terms with what that means. For workers and businesses, this reality includes job losses and closures.
As the federal Minister of Employment, I am watching this all go down from a unique vantage point. We have the highest number of EI claims in recorded history – over 2 million claims in just 10 days.
Unemployment could reach record levels. Businesses are at risk of going under and the economy has ground to a full stop. It is a weighty responsibility to help steer our country out from under this daunting set of circumstances.
A Herculean task, for sure, but far from impossible.
Why? Because we have a lot going for us in Canada. We have a strong public health system that might bend but will not break in this pandemic. We have a very strong banking and financial system – the best in the world. We have secure and stable telecommunications and broadband networks. We have well-funded and prepared first responders, police and fire services across the country. We have a sophisticated emergency response capability. We have a non-profit sector with on-the-ground capacity to support our most vulnerable.
We have a strong democracy. And we have the fiscal flexibility and capacity as the Government of Canada to take whatever steps necessary to get our country through this.
From the beginning, this has meant supporting all workers, whether or not they are eligible for EI. We have introduced a very straightforward income support measure for anyone who has stopped working due to COVID-19. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is $500 per week, paid out at 4 weeks at a time ($2000), for 4 months. If you are quarantined, sick, caring for a loved one who is sick, taking care of children who are not in daycare or school – you qualify. If you have been let go, laid off, furloughed, or had your hours reduced to nothing – you qualify. Workers in the EI system can apply immediately, and workers not in the EI system will be able to apply by April 6th. Everyone will receive their first payment within days.
We also recognize the need to support businesses.
When this public health crisis ends, it will be our small- and medium-sized businesses that will lead the way back to economic stability. It is in our economic interest as a country to ensure that businesses survive and are ready to go full throttle.
To that end, we have introduced a number of measures to support businesses, including emergency loans and credit. The most significant of these measures is the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Businesses that have experienced at least a 30% decrease in revenues are eligible for a 75% subsidy for the first $58,700 in wages per employee. This means up to $847 per week, per employee. This subsidy applies to businesses of all sizes, as well as non-profits and charities. Businesses are encouraged to pay the difference in income if they can, and to hire back workers who have been laid off. More details on how to apply will be announced shortly.
At the end of the day, we are all in this together. This unprecedented situation calls for unprecedented action and it calls for good faith and trust between everyone involved.
I am confident that we will get through this together. As always, please reach out to me and my team with any questions or concerns you may have.