Liberals outline new aid package for Canada’s COVID recovery

The Trudeau Liberals have outlined their latest aid package for an economy rebounding from COVID-19, proposing specific support for severely affected businesses, locked out workers and additional weeks of benefits that expired just days ago.

The legislation introduced Wednesday in the House of Commons is one of four bills the government wants MPs to pass before mid-December before the scheduled winter break.

Liberals propose sending $ 300 a week to workers out of work due to a pandemic-related lockdown between now and spring 2022.

The bill would allow the cabinet to decide which regions are considered blocked, which is defined as an order for companies to close and workers to stay home for at least 14 days in a row. It would block benefits for those who refuse to get vaccinated.

The payments would be retroactive to Oct. 24, when the Liberals let a pandemic-era benefit for the unemployed expire. The Canada Recovery Benefit siblings – sickness and caregiver benefits – would be revived after expiring last weekend with two more weeks of eligibility through May 7.

The wage and rental subsidies for companies would be more generous and would go during the same period to the tourism, culture and hospitality sectors that still suffer, as well as a long list of establishments such as cinemas, arcades, casinos and gyms.

Everyone would have to show a deep and prolonged loss of income to qualify.

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, praised the expanded list of eligible businesses, but said the high bar for lost revenue would leave out too many small businesses.

Similarly, Restaurants Canada called on Liberals to lower the income loss requirement out of fear that many financially viable operations will not survive the pandemic.

“We have been asking for sector-specific support for months and only got a small part of what we asked for,” said Olivier Bourbeau, vice president of federal and Quebec affairs for the association.

Liberals present a bill with pandemic aid targeting businesses and workers. #CDNPoli # Covid19

The government also wants to extend until May a hiring credit for companies that increase their payroll by increasing wages, rehiring laid-off workers or new hires. Credit doesn’t require such a deep loss of income to qualify.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the economy is no longer in the same crisis that gripped the country at the start of the pandemic when three million jobs were lost in March and April 2020.

“I see this legislation as the last step in our COVID support programs. It is what I really hope and I believe is the final pivot,” Freeland said.

Since then, employment has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, although the ranks of Canada’s unemployed, including those who have been out of work for six months or more, remain higher than before COVID-19.

The combination of high unemployment and labor shortages helps explain why the government wants to target aid, in the hope that it will boost job hiring.

An analysis of survey data by job posting site found that more respondents were actively looking for work last month compared to July, August and September, with most describing their search as “urgent.”

Senior economist Brendon Bernard wrote that urgent job searches are generally linked to financial difficulties, suggesting that the findings may be an early warning of stress for households.

Minority liberals estimate the new aid package would cost $ 7.4 billion and the government needs parliamentary approval to spend the money.

The Conservatives and Bloc Québécois separately suggested Tuesday that they could support the bill, the former because the benefits will go where they are most needed, the latter because it would mean aid for cultural workers.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said Tuesday that his party would not support the bill unless the government reversed drops in income-tested benefits for low-income seniors and families who received aid on the last year, which boosted its overall income.

In a letter Wednesday, NDP finance critic Daniel Blaikie asked House Speaker Anthony Rota for an emergency debate to pressure the government on a plan to help “these financially vulnerable Canadians before they lose your home. ”

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough told reporters later that day that the government was looking for a solution, but did not want the solution to create additional inequalities for those whose benefits were reduced because they were simply earning more without help.

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 24, 2021.

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