Dan Albas

COLUMN: Responding with the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy

Support available for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic

This week, after some delay, the finance minister announced more information on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program and will require the recall of parliament before it can be implemented.

The CEWS program is intended to provide financial assistance to Canada’s business community who are in many cases are facing significant economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 virus.

The CEWS will subsidize wages of workers at a rate of 75 per cent of the first $58,700 earned by employees, representing a benefit of up to $847 per week.

This program would be in place for a 12-week period, from March 15 to June 6, 2020.

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In order to qualify, an employer must “suffer a drop in gross revenues of at least 30 per cent in March, April or May, when compared to the same month in 2019” to access the subsidy.

For any new business created after this time frame, at the moment, that business does not qualify, although details may change.

There is no limit to the size of the employer who is eligible and non-profit organizations will also qualify.

Only public sector employers will not qualify.

Any eligible employer accessing this wage subsidy will have it based on the actual wages paid to employees.

Although employers are expected to demonstrate they will attempt to pay the remaining 25% of the wages, it is not required to access the program.

It is unclear how the government will define an attempt to pay the 25 per cent wage top up.

For those that qualify for the CEWS, and make application for the program, it is expected that there will be a six-week delay before the subsidy will actually be available.

The application process for CEWS is also currently unavailable at this time.

My thoughts?

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has stated that for some business with small margins, there could be a massive loss of jobs without ever reaching the loss of 30 per cent of gross revenue — a fair point.

From my perspective I am concerned that new businesses, of which we have many in our region, do not at present qualify for the program.

This is something I am hopeful will change.

The six-week timeframe is also a challenge given that all public information indicates our current public health restrictions are not expected to change over the next 6 weeks.

This means that many businesses will lack the cash flow to hire staff and take advantage of this program.

My remaining concern is that the businesses who are most able to wait the six weeks, and are minimally impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and can take advantage of this program, are not necessarily the businesses who most need the assistance.

My question this week: Do you think the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will provide the support for those business most in need?

I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.

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