The federal Liberals are facing calls from some of the hardest-hit businesses in the coronavirus pandemic to extend emergency-relief programs beyond June.
The government has targeted June 5 for an end to the federal wage and rent subsidies and this week extended applications for a popular loan program to the same time. The idea is to see how the economy is faring as the summer arrives and tweak programs targeting businesses and workers as needed.
Business groups on March 24 argued that sectors relying on in-person customers aren’t going to recover by the summer and called on the Liberals to extend the wage and rent subsidies until the end of the year.
The Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses — which represents industries such as tourism, hospitality and arts and culture — said about 60 per cent of the almost 6,000 companies it represents believe they’ll go under without sustained access to federal support programs.
The most recent federal figures show the wage subsidy has handed out more than $70.2 billion in aid since its launch last year. The latest number of employees whose wages are being subsidized stood at more than 1.3 million, which is the lowest among the program’s 12 pay periods. The government has also provided $1.82 billion in rent relief to 143,110 businesses, including 59,420 companies that received $300 million in lockdown top-ups.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the government should extend the aid programs, but redesign them to target businesses that need the most help. The chamber suggested the government adjust eligibility criteria to account for seasonal businesses and develop targeted policies to assist the longer recovery time for sectors relying on face-to-face interactions.