Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced more measures to help Canadian businesses get through the COVID-19 crisis, including expanded loan eligibility and assistance with commercial rent.
The previously announced loan program, which offers businesses up to $40,000 in a government-backed loan, will now be available to businesses with payrolls worth between $20,000 and $1.5 million. Previously, the interest-free loan was for those with payrolls worth between $50,000 and one million.
Up to $10,000 of the loan is non-repayable.
Trudeau said 195,000 loans amounting to about $7.5 billion have been approved since the loan program opened for applications a week ago.
Trudeau also announced a plan to help small businesses pay commercial rents for April, May and June. He said that plan will be worked out with the premiers, as rent issues fall under provincial jurisdiction.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said changes to the loan program will help more small businesses access the funds, but added new firms, the self-employed and businesses that pay with dividends still will not qualify.
Watch: Trudeau on more aid for businesses
On the commercial rent support, the CFIB said the costs should be reduced or eliminated, not just deferred.
“Many firms are worried that deferring rent and other costs will simply delay a potential bankruptcy, as the bills start to come due when firms are just reopening and their income remains low,” it said in a media statement. “CFIB is also working to ensure there is support for small business owners with commercial mortgages.”
Moving too fast could be ‘disastrous’: Trudeau
Trudeau will hold a call with the premiers later today, and re-opening the economy will be on the agenda. But the prime minister warned that taking such steps too early could undo the progress made to date in containing the virus.
“It would be absolutely disastrous for us to open up too early or too quickly and have another wave hit us that could be just as bad as this one, and find ourselves in a situation of having to go back into quarantine the way we are right now and have everything we’ve done these past weeks be for nothing,” he said.
“We know that there are lots of conversations to be had about how we reopen our economy, what happens in the right order, what the sequencing is, how we keep people safe. But we’re a long way from having the ability to start doing that.”
Watch: Trudeau on re-opening the Canada-U.S. border
As for reopening the Canada-U.S. border, Trudeau said it’s too early to consider that as well. U.S. President Donald Trump suggested yesterday he would like to see the border open as soon as possible.
“I think there was a recognition by the president, as I have highlighted many times, that the closeness, the collaboration, the friendship between Canada and the United States is quite unlike any other,” Trudeau said.
“Therefore the work we continue to do to keep our citizens safe, while coordinating very carefully, is unlike our approaches with other countries around the world. There’s a recognition that as we move forward there will be special thought given to this relationship, but at the same time we know there is a significant amount of time still before we can talk about loosening such restrictions.”
The conversation between the prime minister and the premiers is set to get underway at 6 p.m. ET.
“The premier is interested in hearing what other provinces and the federal government are looking to do in terms of first steps, as well as ensuring support for the most heavily impacted sectors in Ontario,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s spokesperson in an email.
Ford also will be seeking clarity on the proposed wage top-up for essential workers. The measure, which Trudeau announced yesterday, aims to boost the pay for people who make less than $2,500 a month working essential jobs, such as caring for elderly or vulnerable people.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said yesterday the details of the shared federal-provincial program would be worked out in collaboration with the premiers.
The supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and procurement of other vital supplies will also be discussed during today’s call.
Trudeau also spoke with G7 leaders today about global efforts to combat COVID-19.
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