Ottawa unveils new support programs

Recovery hiring program extended while CEWS, CRB replaced with more targeted initiatives

Ottawa unveils new support programs

After the demise of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) as of Oct. 23, 2021, Ottawa is looking to take “targeted action” to create jobs and spur economic growth with several changes to business support programs that include a new worker benefit and new recovery programs.

It’s about moving from broad-based support needed during the height of the lockdowns to more targeted measures where needed, says Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister and minister of finance.

“Our economy is rebounding and we are winning the fight against COVID. It is also true, though, that the recovery is uneven and the health measures that are saving lives continue to restrict some economic activity. That is why today we are announcing what we very much hope and believe is the final pivot in delivering the support needed to ensure a robust recovery – for everyone. Our focus is to protect and create jobs. And ensure the strongest possible recovery for everyone. And we will continue to deliver on this promise.”

Extensions to hiring program, recovery benefits

The Canada Recovery Hiring Program will be extended until May 7, 2022, for eligible employers with current revenue losses above 10 per cent, and the subsidy rate will increase to 50 per cent.

Under the proposed extension, the existing baseline period of March 14 to April 10, 2021, would continue to be used to calculate incremental remuneration. The existing eligibility rules would also continue to apply, including the required revenue decline of more than 10 per cent, says Ottawa.

The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit will also be extended until May 7, 2022, with the maximum duration of benefits boosted by two weeks. This would extend the caregiving benefit from 42 to 44 weeks and the sickness benefit from four to six weeks.

New worker benefit

Replacing the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) will be a new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) which would provide $300 a week in income support to eligible workers should they be unable to work due to a local lockdown anytime between Oct. 24, 2021 and May 7, 2022.

The new benefit would be strictly available to workers whose work interruption is a direct result of a government-imposed public health lockdown. People whose loss of income or employment is due to their refusal to adhere to a vaccine mandate would not be able to access the benefit, says Ottawa.

Is refusing a vaccine considered a frustration of contract? Canadian HR Reporter recently spoke to an employment labour relations expert about the legal landmines employers should be aware of when implementing such a policy.

It would be available to workers who are ineligible for employment insurance (EI) and those who are eligible for EI, as long as they are not paid benefits through EI for the same period. 

The federal government recently provided additional information to help employers issue records of employment (ROEs) for employees during the ongoing pandemic – including those who are not following vaccine mandates.

New employer programs

Ottawa also unveiled a Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program, which would provide support through the wage and rent subsidy programs, to hotels, tour operators, travel agencies, and restaurants, with a subsidy rate of up to 75 per cent. Examples of eligible organizations include hotels, restaurants, bars, festivals, travel agencies, tour operators, convention centres, convention and trade show organizers.

And a Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program would provide support through the wage and rent subsidy programs, for other businesses that have faced deep losses, with a subsidy rate of up to 50 per cent.

Applicants for these programs will use a “two-key” eligibility system where they have to demonstrate significant revenue losses over 12 months of the pandemic, as well as revenue losses in the current month.

Businesses that face temporary new local lockdowns will be eligible for up to the maximum amount of the wage and rent subsidy programs, regardless of losses over the course of the pandemic.

These programs will be available until May 7, 2022, with the proposed subsidy rates available through to March 13, 2022. From March 13, 2022, to May 7, 2022, the subsidy rates will decrease by half, says Ottawa.

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