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Ottawa announces extension of wage support, rent subsidy programs

Thursday, March 04, 2021 @ 9:30 AM | By Ian Burns

Workers and business owners in Canada have a little more breathing room now that Ottawa has announced plans to extend three pandemic-related subsidies.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said March 3 that the government was extending the rate structures for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and Lockdown Support from March 14 to June 5, 2021.

“Workers and businesses have showed incredible resilience over the past year, especially through this difficult winter,” said Freeland. “With variants in Canada and many regions still under lockdown, we are giving workers and businesses the certainty they need.”

Specifically, the maximum wage subsidy rate for active employees would remain at 75 per cent and the maximum rent subsidy rate would remain at 65 per cent. Lockdown Support would remain at 25 per cent and continue to be provided in addition to the rent subsidy, providing eligible hard-hit businesses with rent support of up to 90 per cent.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and employ millions of hard-working Canadians,” said Small Business Minister Mary Ng. “These programs, combined with the incredible resilience of our small businesses, will ensure that we are set up for a strong economic recovery.”

The CEWS is set up to help employers retain and quickly rehire workers previously laid off. According to the federal government, more than five million Canadian employees have had their jobs supported through this subsidy with more than $66 billion paid out in wage subsidies as of Feb. 21. The rent subsidy provides direct rent and mortgage interest support until June 2021 for qualifying organizations affected by COVID-19, and Lockdown Support provides additional rent relief to organizations that must shut their doors or significantly restrict their activities under a public health order.

The government’s move on the subsidies garnered support from the business community. Alla Drigola, director of parliamentary affairs and small and medium-sized enterprises policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the extension provides needed certainty for businesses who continue to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been urging the government to publish the details on what support rates will look like past March 13, and today’s announcement from the prime minister answered those calls,” said Drigola. “Businesses can now plan with certainty this spring, knowing what level of support they’ll receive from these critical support programs through June of this year.”

More information about the three programs can be found here.

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