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Today Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced preliminary details of a multi-billion dollar federal aid package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The components most relevant to employers include the following:

  1. 10% Wage Subsidy for 90 Days. Eligible small businesses will obtain a 10% wage subsidy for the next 90 days up to a maximum of $1,375.00 per employee or $25,000.00 per employer. 

Details on which small businesses are eligible are few, but thus far the wage subsidy would apply to non-profit organizations, charities, and small businesses that qualify for the small business deduction. 

Importantly, eligible small businesses can take immediate advantage of the subsidy by reducing the remittances of income tax on employees’ earnings.

  1. Emergency Care Benefit. A benefit of up to $900.00 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks, accessed through the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”).  Those eligible include:
  • workers who are quarantined or are sick with COVID-19, and do not qualify for EI sickness benefits;

 

  • workers who must take care of a family member sick with COVID-19, and do not qualify for EI sickness benefits; and 

 

  • workers who must care for children as a result of school (and presumably daycare) closures, whether or not they qualify for EI.
  1. Emergency Support Benefit. Payment by the CRA of unspecified amounts to employees who face unemployment as a result the economic impact of COVID-19 and who are otherwise not eligible to receive EI.

The Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit will become available in April after Parliament returns to pass the necessary legislation. 

Importantly, no change has been made to the regular EI regime that applies to eligible employees who are laid off or terminated as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19.  To qualify for EI, employees must have an “interruption of earnings” (i.e. no work and no pay) of at least 7 days.  The 1 week waiting period for regular EI benefits remains in place (unlike EI sick benefits, where the 1 week waiting period was waived last week).