Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at Rideau Cottage during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Thursday, May 7, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Hit by record job losses, Ottawa extends emergency wage subsidy beyond June

Reeling from the loss of more than three million jobs since February due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government is extending the emergency wage subsidy program designed to help businesses retain their employees, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Trudeau said the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will be extended beyond June to help kick-start the Canadian economy as provinces and territories begin to gradually reopen over the coming months.

“We’ll have more details next week, but to businesses hit by COVID-19, know this: the wage subsidy will continue to be there for you, to help you keep your employees on the payroll,” Trudeau said.

The emergency measure covers 75 per cent of wages – up to $847 per week per worker – for businesses that have seen sharp declines in revenue due to the pandemic.

Since the emergency wage subsidy program was launched last week, employers have applied for subsidies for almost two million workers, Trudeau said, urging those who have not done so yet to apply for it.

“And if you had to let people go, try to bring them back,” Trudeau said. “It’s those workers who will drive our economy’s short- and long-term recovery.”

More than half a million companies have accessed business loans through the Canada Emergency Business Account, Trudeau said, acknowledging that the federal government needs to do more to support millions of Canadians hard hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“We’re working around the clock to update and adjust, so that help gets to as many workers, small businesses, families, and young people as possible,” Trudeau said.

“No matter where you work, no matter who you are, these are tough times. But with the right plan, we will get through this.”

On the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, Trudeau invoked the experience of the “Greatest Generation,” which endured six years through the horrors and the hardships of the Second World War, to give hope to the current generation of Canadians.

“It has been 75 years since our grandparents and great-grandparents stood up to do their part. 75 years since they stood united and strong to ensure that we would live in peace and freedom,” Trudeau said.

“Today, as our generation faces our own battle, let us be inspired by their valour as we protect them, and all Canadians. This is our challenge, and I know we will rise to meet it.”

Categories: Economy, Politics
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