Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by joining my colleagues in offering my condolences to all of those touched by the senseless act of violence in Nova Scotia yesterday. I thank Constable Heidi Stevenson for her bravery and dedication in serving her community and country so well, as well as all of the first responders who are on the front lines every day to keep us safe. We join the people of Nova Scotia in mourning this devastating loss, finding strength in each other and offering our support together as we all heal from this tragedy.
I also want to take an opportunity to pay tribute to a wonderful Canadian and a former member of Parliament who sadly passed away this weekend, the Hon. Aileen Carroll. I had the pleasure of knowing Aileen and always greatly admired her dedication to public service. She represented the people of Barrie with tremendous energy and was deeply committed to contributing to the local community, having started her career as a small business owner and a city councillor.
Aileen went on to win three successive elections and served as MP for nine years, including as parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs and then as minister of international co-operation, representing Canada on the world stage. In 2011, Aileen resigned from public life and dedicated herself to focusing on her family, grandchildren and friends, but she remained committed to serving her community through charitable causes. We are grateful for her many years of public service. Her impact will extend right across the country and her legacy will live on. Our thoughts are with her family, her friends and all her colleagues through this difficult time while they mourn.
I would like to acknowledge the contributions made by all the businesses and community leaders who have helped us flatten the curve by staying home and, in many cases, temporarily closing their doors.
I know that Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs are worried. They have worked hard to develop their ideas into prosperous businesses that are the heart of communities across the country and the backbone of Canada's economy.
They have worked hard to turn their ideas into successful businesses at the heart of communities across the country and the backbone of our national economy. To all of them, let me be clear: We will do whatever it takes to support them through this. Our goal is to save jobs and to save businesses. We are taking immediate, significant and decisive action to help Canadians facing hardship as a result of COVID-19.
Through the Canada emergency wage subsidy, we will keep more Canadians employed in businesses of any sizes and in any sector, covering 75% of their wages. We are helping businesses keep their costs low by allowing businesses to defer GST, HST and customs duties payments while also extending the tax filing deadline to June 1 and allowing businesses to defer any payments owing until August 31. This measure will help over 3.2 million businesses and self-employed Canadians.
We are also helping businesses keep up with their operating costs and cash flow through the Canada emergency business account, an interest-free $40,000 loan guaranteed by the Government of Canada with up to $10,000 forgivable if it is paid back before the end of 2022. These loans are available through one's bank or credit union now.
When we heard that many small businesses were not able to access the emergency business account because of the requirement that they have a payroll of at least $50,000, we lowered that threshold to $20,000. Nearly a quarter of a million businesses have already had their loans approved, and our government's recent announcement to expand the eligibility criteria for this program means that even more businesses will qualify.
This means a small furniture store that usually relies on foot traffic to stay afloat can continue paying the costs of upkeeping its warehouse space. This means that a physiotherapist practice can access the funds to rehire its employees even while it has seen its revenue drop and everyone is working from home.
For businesses with larger operational needs, we have made loans of up to $12.5 million available. These are also available through one's local bank or credit union.
We have also heard from businesses that they need help paying their rent, and that is exactly what we intend to do. As the Prime Minister announced last week, we will introduce a Canada emergency rent assistance program for small businesses. This program will seek to provide loans and forgivable loans to commercial property owners who in turn will lower the rent for small businesses. Rent is an issue that falls under the jurisdiction of provinces and territories. We will continue to work closely with them on this important issue, and we will have more details to share soon.
Our government also recognizes that businesses in different parts of the country may face unique realities and challenges in the face of COVID-19. In order to give equivalent financial support to these small and medium-sized businesses, our government is investing $675 million in Canada's regional development agencies. At the same time, we will ensure that rural businesses and communities have access to much-needed capital by investing $287 million in the community futures network to support small businesses in rural communities. This new financing will help support businesses and their communities so that they can be strong through this crisis.
Together, these measure alleviate enormous expenses and pressures on businesses and on business owners, and will help prime them for recovery, when it is safe to do so, to ensure that they can regain ground much more quickly.
Everything we have done to date is to respond to what we have heard directly from businesses across the country, from helping them keep their employees on staff and supporting them with the funds and cash flow to operate and pay their bills, to keeping their costs low. Our government will remain unwavering in our support for Canadians, our health care system and our economy, and our work is not yet done. No measure is off the table.
Canadians are innovative, strong and resilient. In the face of COVID-19, our government recognizes the need to help innovative early-stage companies and young entrepreneurs. To better support these businesses and entrepreneurs, we are investing $250 million through the National Research Council of Canada's industrial research assistance program, also known as IRAP, and $20 million for Futurpreneur Canada to continue to support young entrepreneurs across Canada who are facing challenges due to COVID-19.
Through this crisis, it has been so inspiring to see Canadians come together in new and amazing ways. In fact, since the Prime Minister announced Canada's plan to mobilize industry to fight COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago, about 5,000 innovative Canadian businesses have answered our call, working to provide our front-line workers with the gear that they are going to need to fight this pandemic together.
These are unprecedented times and I know that Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs are worried. However, we are all in this together and we are all helping each other as team Canada. This is who we are as Canadians and we can all take pride in that.