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Federal government unveils $82 billion pandemic aid package for Canadians

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep across Canada and around the world, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an $82 billion aid package, which he said represents 3% of the country’s GDP.

This includes a $27 billion fund that will be directly supporting businesses and workers, as well as $55 million put forward in tax deferrals.

Trudeau also announced an Emergency Care Benefit comparable through what would be paid through EI for people who are ill, quarantine or self isolate, or caring for someone who is sick. It would provide up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks.

Canadians without paid sick leave (or similar workplace accommodation) who are sick, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children, the federal government is now waiving the one-week waiting period for those individuals in imposed quarantine that claim Employment Insurance sickness benefits. This temporary measure is in effect as of March 15, 2020.

They will also be waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.

As well, for families with children who may also require additional support, the government is proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child.

The overall increase for families receiving CCB will be approximately $550 on average; these families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment.

The government is also providing $305 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities.

As for students, the federal government is placing a six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans for all individuals currently in the process of repaying these loans.

While it is tax season, the government said for individuals, the return filing due date will be deferred until June 1, 2020. The Canada Revenue Agency will also allow all taxpayers to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020.

To help businesses, the federal government is proposing to provide eligible small employers a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months.

According to the feds, the subsidy will be equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.

Wednesday’s announcement is in addition to the $1 billion response fund Trudeau announced last week, which is meant to provide funding across the country to mitigate and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The prime minister said $500 million will be given to provinces and territories for critical healthcare system needs and mitigation efforts. This could include increased access to testing, acquisition of equipment, and enhanced surveillance and monitoring.

Trudeau also outlined that $200 million will be allocated to the federal level to buy more surgical masks, have increased public health response for Indigenous communities, and to increase the educational effort to responsibly inform the public about the disease.

Another $275 million will go towards coronavirus research and medical countermeasures.

At the time, Trudeau said that the federal government planned to introduce a “significant fiscal stimulus package in the days ahead” to help those who find themselves in a financial bind as a result of the ongoing situation.

“No one should have to worry about paying rent, buying groceries, or additional childcare because of COVID-19,” said Trudeau last week. “We will help Canadians financially.”

With files from Eric Zimmer

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