Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll begin by thanking the members of the committee for their continuing work during these extremely challenging times, and thank you for the invitation to have me speak today at the committee.
As we all know, COVID-19 continues to pose significant risks to people's health, their way of life, and the economy as a whole.
Since the beginning of March, the measures implemented as part of Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan have been supporting Canadian workers grappling with this unprecedented crisis.
This whole-of-economy plan promotes economic stability and protects jobs. Our government's rapid, comprehensive response is providing over $150 billion in direct support to Canadians, to soften the economic impact of this crisis. This support will also help our economy recover once the crisis ends.
Ours is one of the most comprehensive plans in the G7. We've rolled out measures for workers and businesses across all economic sectors, for employers of all sizes. We're helping students who are trying to build careers, and parents trying to juggle the demands of the COVID crisis on their professional and family lives.
We've worked with provinces, territories and indigenous leaders. We're continuing to make sure that no one is left behind. The Canada emergency response benefit, which provides temporary income support to workers who've stopped working, is important. More than 7.8 million Canadians have applied for the CERB as of May 10.
We know that the pandemic has brought extra costs into the lives of seniors too and that they need some support as well. As one of our first measures, we announced a GST credit top-up that was delivered in April, which provided financial support to low- and modest-income Canadians, including over four million seniors. Eligible seniors received an average of $375 for single seniors and $510 for senior couples.
This week, the Prime Minister announced additional financial support to help our seniors. Canadians who receive the old age security pension will automatically get a tax-free payment of $300.
Those who receive the guaranteed income supplement will get an additional $200, tax free. These payments will go to support seniors. There are currently 6.7 million seniors who are eligible for the OAS pension and 2.2 million who are eligible for the GIS.
We've also invested in community support initiatives that help seniors. We've given $9 million to United Way Canada to provide practical services, such as delivering groceries and medications.
We also announced an investment of $20 million in the new horizons for seniors program, which helps reduce isolation and provides social support for seniors. This support is now more critical than ever before. We've also announced virtual care in mental health tools for all Canadians through a new online portal called “Wellness Together Canada”.
In addition to supporting individual Canadians, we've provided significant support to Canadian businesses since the beginning of the crisis. We've implemented support for businesses across Canada that aren't eligible for other support measures, through the new regional relief and recovery fund. This new fund devotes nearly $962 million to help more businesses and organizations that are key to local economies, including rural economies.
Last week, we announced an investment of more than $252 million to support farmers, food businesses and food processors who make sure our grocery stores are stocked and are keeping Canadians fed. This complements our action in March to enable Farm Credit Canada to provide an additional $5 billion in lending to producers, agribusinesses and food processors. The government also intends to propose an additional $200 million in borrowing capacity for the dairy sector in particular.
This past Monday, we announced the expansion of the business credit availability program to mid-sized companies from across the economy with larger financing needs. In addition, we announced the large employer emergency financing facility to provide bridge financing to Canada's largest employers to help them get through this pandemic. These businesses employ millions of Canadians and we need them to stay strong. We'll protect workers by ensuring that companies that receive support through LEEFF respect any and all collective bargaining agreements, including pensions. We'll protect taxpayers by putting in place strict limits on executive pay, share buybacks and dividends.
We want to make sure this support is truly going to companies that contribute to Canada's economic well-being by making significant investments in this country. In considering a company's eligibility, we assess its international organizational structure and financing arrangements, as well as its employment, tax and economic activity in Canada. Recipient companies will be required to commit to certain objectives with regard to the disclosure of risks related to climate change and environmental sustainability.
Companies will not be able to get this financing if they've been convicted of tax evasion.
The government also announced a temporary top-up to the salaries of low-income essential workers that the provinces and territories have deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19. All provinces and territories have confirmed, or are in the process of confirming, plans to cost-share wage top-ups for their essential workers. The Government of Canada will provide up to $3 billion to support this wage increase.
Since the beginning of this crisis, we've been focused on providing Canadians and Canadian businesses with the support they need to get through this crisis. We'll do whatever it takes. We'll get through these challenging times together.
Thank you very much.