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Feds extend wage, rent subsidy rates until June

Ottawa pegs cost of extending programs at $16b
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland

Ottawa is extending relief to businesses still reeling from the pandemic a day after Statistics Canada revealed the national economy contracted 5.4% last year.

The Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canadian Emergency Rent Subsidy will be maintained at their current rates from March 14 through to June 5, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday (March 3).

The CEWS program originally covered up to 75% on the first $58,700 an employee earns — or a maximum of $847 a week — before it was slated to decline at a staggered rate in December 2020.

The feds then decided to freeze the rate in October 2020 before Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland ultimately decided in November it would be restored to its previous maximum, owing to a harsher business climate during the winter months.

But even as the weather begins to warm, the maximum rate of 75% will now be maintained throughout the spring.

Freeland estimated Wednesday the cost of extending the program at its current rate will amount to $13.9 billion.

That’s on top of the estimated $83.53 billion the program has cost since its launch last year through to March 13.

Meanwhile, the government is also extending the Canadian Emergency Rent Subsidy with its maximum rate remaining at 65%.

The base subsidy rate is a maximum of $75,000 in eligible expenses per location and an overall maximum of $300,000 in expenses for any affiliated entities.

So far the program has cost $4.4 billion, while the extension at the current rate from March 14 to June 5 will cost an additional $2.1 billion.

A specific lockdown support measure offering to cover up to 25% of expenses for the days a business was forced to close by health authorities is also being extended to June.

Trudeau also announced Wednesday the federal government is earmarking $518 million to the Canada Foundation for Innovation in an effort to fund “hundreds of projects and hundreds of researchers.”

The prime minister said projects focused on vaccines and the study of viruses will be receiving funding as a result.

—With a file from Frank O’Brien

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