CEWS bill passes; cash should flow in four or five weeks

OTTAWA – The House of Commons approved a wage subsidy bill on April 11 that will allow the government to pay businesses to keep employees on the payroll even if they’re not working.

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) was announced on March 27. Passing the bill means it can now be enacted.

The government will pay a 75 per cent wage subsidy to eligible employers for up to 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, to a maximum benefit of $847 per week, per employee.

Qualifying businesses include individuals, taxable corporations, partnerships, non-profit organizations and registered charities.

Businesses must show they have lost 15% of their revenue in March and 30%in April and May.

“This wage subsidy aims to prevent further job losses, encourage employers to re-hire workers previously laid off as a result of COVID-19 and help better position Canadian companies and other employers to more easily resume normal operations following the crisis,” reads a statement on the government of Canada’s website.

The bill passed unanimously in the House on Saturday night and later in the Senate. Cash from the $73-billion subsidy program should start flowing in four or five weeks.

Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong is one of the Conservative MPs invited to take part in the session. Chong said the session went a lot quicker and smoother than an emergency session on March 24, when the government was trying to get the ball rolling on emergency benefit plans.

“The Conservatives improved upon the bill,” Chong said, adding his party improved timelines, so money will get to employers as quickly as possible.

Chong said it was the Conservatives who pushed for the subsidy to be retroactive to March 15 as well.

“I’m happy the government incorporated those measures in the bill,” he said.

Chong said the party is also lobbying for more open sessions of Parliament.

“We need the opposition to hold the government accountable and we can only do that if we have open Parliament,” he said. “We need to ensure that democracy is functioning.

“We did it Saturday and were able to observe social distancing. We could do it again even in an abbreviated form.

“My focus is on the residents of Wellington County and Halton Hills. We need to ensure we protect their health and their jobs.”

On April 13 the government announced a $50-million package to help farmers, fish harvesters and food production and processing employers who use temporary foreign workers.

Temporary foreign workers can now enter the country, along with other foreigners with student and work visas, as long as they are not symptomatic and self-isolate for 14 days after they arrive.

Their employers are required to feed and house them for the 14 days and provide transportation and other essentials. In recognition of that expense, the federal government will pay $1,500 to the employer for each temporary foreign worker they hire.

Employers who violate the mandatory 14-day isolation protocol could face heavy fines and sanctions and could even be banned from the program.

“This program will be available as long as the Quarantine Act is in force and the isolation protocol is followed,” reads a statement from the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.