Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an $82 billion stimulus package to underpin several new policies aimed at supporting Canadian workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Public health should never hinge on financial considerations,” said Trudeau at a press conference on Wednesday morning.
The support will come through a combination of $27 billion in direct supports for more vulnerable workers and businesses and $55 billion in tax deferrals. The measures, taken together, represent more than three per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.
“No matter who you are or what you do, this is a time when you should be focused on your health and your neighbours, not whether you’re going to lose your job, not whether you’re going to run out of money for things like groceries or medication,” he said.
For those who don’t qualify for employment insurance and don’t have access to paid sick leave, the federal government is introducing the emergency care benefit, which will provide workers who have to stay home with money comparable to EI payments on a bi-weekly basis, for a period of 14 weeks. “This applies to people who fall ill, people who’ve been placed in quarantine or have to self isolate. It also applies to those who have to take care of a family member with COVID-19 but who . . . fail to qualify for EI,” said Trudeau.
For those who lose their jobs but aren’t entitled to EI, the government is introducing a COVID-19 emergency support benefit. “This will apply also to people who are self-employed and have to close shop because of the virus,” he said.
As for small businesses, the government will provide a temporary wage subsidy equal to 10 per cent of salaries paid to employees for a period of three months. “This will encourage employers to keep staff on the payroll during these uncertain times,” he said.
As well, the income tax filing deadline has been extended to June 1, 2020. Workers and businesses who owe additional taxes will have until Aug. 31, 2020 to pay.
The government will also boost the Canada child benefit to give extra support to parents dealing with school closures. For lower-income Canadians, the government intends to supplement the GST credit — a tax-free payment sent to low-income Canadians every few months — in May. Every qualifying adult will receive up to $300, with $150 for every child.
The government is also putting a six-month interest-free moratorium on Canadian student loan repayments. Further, it will boost funding for shelters providing assistance to those fleeing domestic violence.
Trudeau emphasized the government is willing to do more to supplement these measures as the situation around the pandemic develops.
More information on the government’s stimulus package is available here.