Last week, Parliament passed and received royal assent on Bill C-13, “An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19,” a relief package that will provide $2,000 a month through July for those who have lost their jobs or who are going unpaid as a direct result of the disease.
“As the impact of the global pandemic is being felt across our country, it is vitally important that our government does everything it can to keep every citizen safe,” said First District International Vice President Tom Reid. “Speaking for the IBEW, we remain fully committed to doing our part as a union to protect all of our members, not just during this crisis but every single day.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plan on March 18 as the first in a set of measures to help fight COVID-19 and the massive effect the disease is having on people in Canada and around the world.
The relief package frees the federal government to distribute nearly $107 billion, including $52 billion in direct payments to Canadians and businesses across the country alongside $55 billion in tax payment deferrals.
“No matter who you are or what you do,” Trudeau said, “this is a time where you should be focused on your health, and that of 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 and medication.”
More than 1 million Canadians have applied for unemployment benefits in recent weeks. By April 6, the federal government plans to have a portal in place to allow those either unemployed or unable to work because of the virus to apply for the monthly payments, regardless of whether they are eligible for employment insurance.
For those who are in imposed quarantine, the government is waiving the one-week waiting period for claiming employment insurance sickness benefits.
Meanwhile, Trudeau announced on Friday plans for a 75 per cent wage subsidy for qualifying businesses that have seen revenues decrease by more than 30 per cent since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.
Details are still being worked out on the aid plan, which is expected to be available on the first $58,700 in employee income for up to three months and retroactive to March 15. But it’s hoped that the boost will help businesses put laid-off workers back on their payrolls as well as help them to retain their current employees. The Prime Minister urged businesses to top up the remaining 25 per cent of their employee wages should they be in a position to do so.
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau said in a March 19 interview with BNN Bloomberg that he believes that the federal government will take further measures as more information about the disease and its impact emerges.
“As IBEW members, we understand the meaning of ‘solidarity,’” Reid said. “We need that solidarity now more than ever, standing with our fellow citizens — but for now at least two metres away, of course — in this time of worldwide crisis.”