With Hours Before Deadline, Liberals Reshape Pandemic Aid to Businesses, Workers

By The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
October 21, 2021 Updated: October 21, 2021

OTTAWA—Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the federal government is reshaping a suite of pandemic aid programs for businesses and individuals starting this weekend.

The federal wage and rent subsidies are scheduled to expire on Saturday, along with benefits for some unemployed workers.

Freeland says the measures were always designed to be temporary to get through the crisis.

She says the country is now in a very different phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the labour market has recovered all the jobs lost last year and vaccination rates are rising.

In place of the broad wage and rent subsidies for businesses will be more direct subsidies to still-hurting sectors of the economy.

Mark Agnew, senior vice-president policy with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, says the retooled government support programs would allow businesses that continue to be impacted by public health restrictions to survive until they can recover.

“This is the fair thing to do for businesses that are playing their part to protect public health,” he said in a statement.

Freeland also says income support measures will only go to workers off the job because of a lockdown. She says the new benefit would pay $300 a week to workers subject to a lockdown, including those who are ineligible for employment insurance.

The rate of pay is equal to what the Canada Recovery Benefit has provided to unemployed workers, over two million of whom have used the benefit over the last year and receiving $27 billion in aid.

Freeland says there is still a need for the benefits to help parents stay home to care for a sick child, or to stay home themselves if sick, which is why they will be extended into the new year and individuals will be given two more weeks of eligibility.

She also says the government estimates the cost of the new measures at over $7 billion.The Canadian Press