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View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis. Our government knows that Canadians and businesses are going through very trying times. That is why we acted so fast. We have implemented programs to support all Canadians affected by the pandemic.
This unprecedented crisis demands an unprecedented response. Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan is among the largest in the G7. We have introduced measures for workers, parents, students and for businesses, large and small. We are making sure that no one is left behind. Let me provide a few examples.
The Canada emergency response benefit is a major part of the government's COVID-19 economic response plan. It is meant to help stabilize the economy by supporting Canadians as they pay for essentials, like housing and groceries, and will help businesses across the country to pay their bills and keep their doors open. The emergency response benefit provides $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who have lost their incomes because of COVID-19. More than seven million Canadians have already received money through this essential benefit.
We are also boosting the Canada child benefit by $300 per child for over three million Canadian families. That is an extra $550 per family on average. We are supplementing the GST credit with a special payment for low- and modest-income families averaging about $400 for single people and $600 for couples. Many people have already received their money.
We are also continuing to work with the provinces and territories to share the cost of a temporary wage top-up for low-income workers deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19. That includes Quebec and British Columbia, where the provincial governments have already implemented direct wage support for those workers.
We are also helping Canadian employers and employees deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the government hopes to prevent further job losses and encourage employers to rehire workers previously laid off because of COVID-19. The idea is to ensure that Canadian businesses are well positioned to fully resume their operations after the crisis. The emergency wage subsidy covers 75% of employees' earnings, up to $847 a week, for employers who suffer a drop in gross revenues of at least 15% in March, or 30% in April or May.
In addition, the Canada emergency business account provides up to $40,000 in interest-free loans to small businesses, including non-profit organizations. Since the second week of April, small business owners have been able to apply for assistance through the Canada emergency business account at their bank or credit union. Businesses can access this account through their primary lender, with which they already have a business relationship.
Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our economy and, really, of our society. They give our communities their character, provide good jobs and support families across the country. That is why I am pleased to report that the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance will give eligible small businesses affected by COVID-19 another break. It will lower their rent by 75%. We are able to offer this support thanks to an agreement in principle that our government reached with all provinces and territories last week. That is team Canada at work.
The Government of Canada is taking strong, immediate and effective action to protect Canadians and Canadian businesses from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures I have outlined today will help Canadian employers retain or re-hire their employees, as many have done already. This is the key to our response plan. By being able to hold onto their workers, Canadian companies will be in a better position to bounce back quickly after the crisis and many more Canadians will have the security of knowing that they still have a job.
Another aspect of our response that is really important is that we have not and will not hesitate to make adjustments to enhance our programs. We want to make sure that everyone is protected and we are working to ensure that people and businesses do not fall through the cracks. Our response has been guided by principle that speed trumps perfection and that making useful modifications as we go along is a feature and not a bug.
That is why we are offering assistance to students and recent graduates affected by COVID-19. A few weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of students across the country were getting ready to start a summer job. For some of these young Canadians, this would be their first opportunity to take on challenges and succeed in the workplace. For others, this job would be a bridge to their career.
Today, these same students are having a hard time finding meaningful employment. Many are worried, and they are wondering how they can pay their rent and save for school.
In March, the number of post-secondary students who were employed dropped by 28% compared to February 2020. Some of these students are eligible for the Canada emergency response benefit. These young people are at a pivotal time in their lives and we must do what we can to give them a promising future. The government intends to do something about that.
We are proposing the new Canada emergency student benefit as part of Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan. This benefit would provide eligible Canadian students with $1,250 a month from May to August. Eligible students with dependants or disabilities will receive a higher amount.
The government also intends to launch the Canada student service grant to encourage students to volunteer. This service grant will provide up to $5,000 to support recipients' post-secondary education costs in the fall.
We also need to look beyond this summer and improve existing financial assistance programs available to students. That is what we intend to do. Our plan includes doubling Canada student grants for all eligible students in 2020-21 to $6,000 for full-time students and up to $3,600 for those studying part time.
The government recognizes that many families will have a tough time setting money aside in 2020 to help their children go to school, and we want to support the next generation of Canadian leaders. We plan to enhance Canada student loan programs by increasing the maximum weekly amount available from $210 to $350.
Overall, the measures I have just described represent nearly $9 billion for post-secondary students and recent graduates.
During these unprecedented times, we will continue to carefully monitor all COVID-19 related developments. Protecting Canadians' health and meeting their immediate needs remain our priorities. Once this crisis is over, we will be ready to work with Canadians and kick-start the economy in order to build an even stronger country.
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