As you know, this remains an extremely fluid situation. The COVID-19 cirus continues to spread, around the world and within Canada, and we have all felt its impact on our day to day lives. Our government has responded to the crisis with a variety of measures as the situation has evolved and the number of cases continued to grow.
As COVID-19 cases initially began to appear in Canada our Government launched an immediate, initial battery of steps as a first response, including:
- Provided an immediate $500 million to provinces and territories for critical health care system needs and to support mitigation efforts as needed. This could include help to support with access to testing, acquisition of equipment, etc…
- Provided $100 million to First Nations and Inuit communities. This is in addition to an initial $50 million that was provided to support the immediate public health response.
- Over $300 million towards research and development, including research on medical countermeasures, including antivirals, vaccine development and support for clinical trials.
- $50 million to ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment like surgical masks, face shields, and isolation gowns.
I want to assure you that our response has been, and will continue to be, based on science and evidence, and is guided by world-class health professionals and authorities.
With matters changing so quickly, it is likely that the situation has changed since writing. I would therefore like to direct you to our government’s COVID-19 response website. This website is maintained with the most up-to-date information on the measures our government is taking to keep you safe. Please also consult your local and provincial health authorities for information on additional measures taken at those levels.
I am well aware that many Canadians are worried about their financial situation. This is an extraordinary situation. Please know that our government is here, we understand, and we are unwavering in our commitment to support you, your friends and family, our healthcare system, and our economy.
No Canadian should have to worry about paying for bills, rent, or food during this uncertain time. That is why we are moving ahead with Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan to immediately help Canadians and businesses in need. We will implement supports for low-income Canadians, workers who are unable to access Employment Insurance or paid sick leave, workers who are caring for a family member who is sick with COVID-19, and more, through temporary measures that will put more money in their pockets. We are also providing flexibility for Canadians to file their taxes by pushing back deadlines to file and pay their annual taxes.
Here are some details on the measures we’re putting in place to help impacted Canadians:
- The Emergency Care Benefit – this benefit will support Canadians who become sick, need to self-isolate, or need to take time away from work to care for a child. This benefit will provide direct assistance to Canadians who do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) of up to $450 per week for up to 15 weeks. This benefit will be available in early April and you will be able to apply online from your home in order to follow public health advice. We will not require a doctor’s note, which would only further add to the burden facing our public health care system.
- The Emergency Support Benefit – this benefit will provide direct financial support to Canadians that are laid off or experience a decline in hours. Importantly, this new benefit will provide coverage for individuals that are self-employed or that do not otherwise qualify for Employment Insurance.
- An enhanced GST Credit – this measure will support Canadians that have modest incomes by doubling the maximum credit for over 12 Million families. This credit top-up would mean an average of $400 for single adults, and $600 for couples. This measure will inject $5.5 Billion into the Canadian economy and will be available as soon as May 2020.
- An enhanced Canada Child Benefit that will see an additional $300 per child for the 2019-2020 year to assist with unexpected challenges tied to raising children, including disruptions to child care.
- A new Wage Subsidy for Small and Medium sized businesses. This will equate to 10% of their employees’ salary for a period of 3 months and will be delivered by granting a holiday on a portion of tax withholding remittances that would ordinarily be due to the federal government. It will give up to $1,375 per employee and up to $25,000 per employer. This measure will apply not only to businesses, but also to non-profits and will help them avoid layoffs.
- A 6 month moratorium on all Canada Student Loans payments – during the period of this deferral, no student loan payments will become due, and no interest will be charged on amounts owed during this time. This relief will save 1 Million young Canadians an average of $160 per month.
- Additional support to assist Canadians without access to housing. For many of these individuals, self-isolation is an impossibility and we need to ensure they have the support to protect their health. This will include funding to help shelters implement public health measures to ensure vulnerable individuals, including women and children fleeing violence, will have a safe place to seek refuge.
- Changes to help protect the retirement savings of Canadian seniors in light of market volatility, we are reducing the mandatory withdrawal from RRIFs by 25%.
- A new $305 Million Indigenous Community Support Fund to help First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities that will help provide them address immediate needs that many Canadians take for granted.
Similarly, we will be there to help businesses with financial assistance to pay their bills and employees. We are also deferring the tax season for businesses, which will keep tens of billions of dollars in the economy. As an initial phase we will:
- Extend the tax filing deadline to June 1. This tax deferral will allow businesses that owe taxes at the end of the year to delay the time at which taxes would ordinarily become due until August 31. No interest will accrue during this period.
- Provide support of more than $10 Billion in loans for businesses of all sizes through the Business Credit Availability Program.
- Increased Liquidity for lenders in the Canadian economy to help businesses stay afloat through $50 Billion in mortgage purchases that will allow banks to free up additional lending capacity.
- A reduction of the interest rate through the Bank of Canada to 0.75%. Additionally, the Bank of Canada will free up lending capacity by approximately $50 Billion.
- Doubling the lending capacity of Farm Credit Canada.
- The Superintendent of Financial Institutions has changed the rules regulating Canada’s major banks that will allow them to increase lending capacity by approximately $300 Billion.
- Additional support through EDC’s Canada Account for items that are in Canada’s national interest.
To the extent we need to take further action in the coming days, weeks, or months, we will. We will be there for Canadian families and businesses in their time of need and we will get through this
Once again, I want to stress that this is a truly unprecedented public health crisis–one that requires a collective response. Each and every one of us has to step up and do our part. Social distancing and other measures recommended by Health Canada are essential to combating the spread of the virus. I know that if we all act with the appropriate caution, follow expert advice, and rely on the support of our families, neighbours, and loved ones, we will get through the difficult times ahead. Our government will be there with you every step of the way, and we will do whatever it takes.