$73B COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Passes

CBJ — Members of Parliament have passed a $73 billion wage subsidy program, which means it could be available for businesses as soon as two weeks from now, although it could take up to five weeks in some instances.

The Senate then passed the Bill later on Saturday night. Only a small number of MPs were on hand to debate the bill before voting to pass it. An agreement to do so was reached late Friday night.

Saturday’s events began with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivering an address. He compared this crisis to past wartime efforts in terms of the size of funding being granted for use.

“But Mr. Speaker, this is not a war,” he clarified. “That doesn’t make this fight any less destructive, any less dangerous.”

He went on to say, “Without reservation, without pause, we must fight for every inch of ground against this disease. We must be there for each other as we spare no effort to safeguard our collective future.”

Finance Minister Bill Morneau faced questions from the Senate before it too voted to pass the bill into law.

As part of the final stage, which is merely ceremonial, the bill was granted immediate royal assent by Governor General Julie Payette.

The wage subsidy will provide 75% of employees’ salaries to a maximum of $58,700 per annum, which works out to $847 per week. As of now the program is slated to last for 12 weeks and is retroactive to March 15. It’s expected further changes may still be made, but all parties agreed that a core bill needed to be passed as soon as possible. Many businesses have already stated they have closed their doors permanently while many others are hanging on by the fingertips.

The new subsidy program will be available through the banks that are used by each particular company that chooses to use it.

Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said that the spending measures will likely result in a more than $184 billion deficit in fiscal 2020-21, and while the spending is necessary it will definitely mean a tremendous amount of fiscal restraint beyond that timeline and for years to come.

Scheer also offered several examples of where the Tories called for tweaks to the billions of dollars in financial aid. Firstly, proposing that once an employer is eligible based on one month’s revenue, they would automatically qualify for the next period and those going forward, Secondly, addressing gaps in the CERB, such as college and university students, part-time workers, and essential workers.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh similarly used his address to ponder whether people have fallen through the cracks and that the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit should be made to all Canadians in need. Those who qualify are entitled to $2,000 per month for a period of 16 weeks. Payments began reaching Canadians’ bank accounts as of April 7.