Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced some new economic support measures today in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
These measures, delivered as part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, will provide up to $27 billion in support to Canadian workers and businesses, plus $55 billion to meet the liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals to help stabilize the economy.
The government said the money is intended to help ensure Canadians can pay for rent and groceries, and help businesses continue to pay their employees and their bills during this time of uncertainty.
“No Canadian should have to worry about paying their rent or buying groceries during this difficult time. That is why we are taking the strong action needed to stabilize our economy and help those impacted by the COVID-19 virus. Together, we will get through this difficult time,” said Prime Minister Trudeau.
The federal government says the plan aims to stabilize the economy and help ensure that workers have the money they need while they are sick or in isolation, or due to loss of work or a significant reduction in work income.
To support workers and their families, the Government of Canada says it will do the following:
- Provide additional assistance to families with children by temporarily boosting Canada Child Benefit payments.
- Introduce an Emergency Care Benefit of up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks to provide income support to workers who must stay home and do not have access to paid sick leave. This measure could provide up to $10 billion to Canadians, and includes:
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are sick, quarantined, or who have been directed to self-isolate but do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent or other dependents who are sick, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
- EI-eligible and non-EI-eligible working parents who must stay home without pay because of children who are sick or who need additional care because of school closures.
- Introduce an Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the Canada Revenue Agency to provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.
- Provide additional assistance to individuals and families with low and modest incomes with a special top-up payment under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) credit.
- Waive, for a minimum of six months, the mandatory one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits for workers in imposed quarantine or who have been directed to self-isolate, as announced on March 11.
- Waive the requirement for a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.
- Extend the tax filing deadline for individuals to June 1, and allow all taxpayers to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020.
- Provide eligible small businesses with a 10 percent wage subsidy for the next 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Employers benefiting from this measure would include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as not-for-profit organizations and charities.
- Provide increased flexibility to lenders to defer mortgage payments on homeowner government-insured mortgage loans to borrowers who may be experiencing financial difficulties related to the outbreak. Insurers will permit lenders to allow payment deferral beginning immediately.
In addition, to provide targeted support for vulnerable groups, the Government is investing to:
- Reduce minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25 percent for 2020 in recognition of volatile market conditions and their impact on many seniors’ retirement savings.
- Implement a six-month, interest-free, moratorium on Canada Student Loan payments for all individuals who are in the process of repaying these loans.
- Provide $305 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund, to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities.
- Support women and children fleeing violence by providing up to $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities. This includes funding for facilities in Indigenous communities.
- Provide an additional $157.5 million to address the needs of Canadians experiencing homelessness through the Reaching Home program.
Supports were also announced for Canadian business:
- Allow all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020.
- Increase the credit available to small, medium, and large Canadian businesses. As announced on March 13, a new Business Credit Availability Program will provide more than $10 billion of additional support to businesses experiencing cash flow challenges through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada.
- Further, expand Export Development Canada’s ability to provide support to domestic businesses.
- Provide flexibility on the Canada Account limit, to allow the Government to provide additional support to Canadian businesses, when deemed to be in the national interest, to deal with exceptional circumstances.
- Augment credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector through Farm Credit Canada. Launch an Insured Mortgage Purchase Program to purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
In order to move forward with implementing these new measures, the Government intends to introduce special legislation and seek the approval of Parliament.
Ottawa says it will continue to take further action as required to prioritize the health and safety of Canadians, stabilize the economy, and mitigate the economic impact of this pandemic.