Federal government announces scaled down pandemic aid through May 7, 2022

By Michael Ranger and John Marchesan


The Trudeau government will not be extending a number of federal benefit programs that have provided much needed financial relief to individuals and small businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic after they expire this weekend.

Instead, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled a series of new, targeted benefits which will kick in on Sunday, including a hiring program so that businesses can continue to rehire workers as well as supports for tourism businesses burdened by the ongoing pandemic measures.

The government is also introducing the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit which will provide $300 a week to workers who are subject to a lockdown.

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.

The $7.4 billion suite of benefits will only be in effect until May 7, 2022.

“Our emergency support measures were always designed to be temporary, to get us through the crisis,” said Freeland. “We’re now in a new phase, one that is very different from the darkest days in our fight against COVID. We have recovered lost jobs, vaccination rates are high and will get higher as it becomes possible to vaccinate more of our children. Borders are reopening and the fourth wave appears to be coming under control in many parts of the country.”

The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) — which replaced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit — as well as a host of other pandemic related support programs are due to expire on Oct. 23, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Emergency Rent Subsidy.

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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.

Recent data from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) suggests most Canadian businesses are still reporting their sales being “off or way off normal” due to pandemic restrictions and customers not returning to their pre-pandemic shopping habits.

Government data shows the CRB has brought in more than two million unique applicants as of Oct. 10. Approximately $93 billion has been given out to businesses through wage subsidy since the start of the pandemic.

According to a recent Angus Reid Institute survey, most Canadians believe the emergency support programs should wrap up by the end of the year, with 41 per cent saying the benefits should be cut off immediately. Among those people, 29 per cent have received benefits themselves.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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