By Geoff Agombar
Local Journalism Initiative
Wednesday, a flurry of federal minister appearances updated Canadians on programs aimed at mitigating the worst economic shocks of renewed public health restrictions.
Most significantly, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced an expansion of employee and employer eligibility for wage and rent support. The announcement will unlock an estimated $4 billion in COVID relief benefits across the country.
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a $30 million top-up to the Emergency Food Security Fund for food banks.
Meanwhile, Minister Responsible for the Economic Development Agency for the Regions of Québec Pascale St-Onge released a statement reminding of programs in place for hard-hit industries such as tourism, hospitality, and culture.
Freeland announced the changes to the Local Lockdown Program and Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit during a joint COVID update with the prime minister, health minister, employment minister, and both the chief and deputy chief public health officers.
These programs were introduced in October but did not become law until Dec. 17. They were initially intended to address future lockdowns to contain localized outbreaks.
Before these changes, no regions were designated as eligible for lockdown benefits.
Now, the definition of “lockdown” has been adapted to address the gap in general wage and rent support since the CRB phased out in October. The Canada Caregiver Relief Benefit and Canada Support will be available in jurisdictions that have introduced capacity-limiting restrictions of 50 per cent or more.
The Local Lockdown Program offers wage and rent subsidies of 25 per cent up to a maximum of 75 per cent. The revenue decline threshold has been lowered from 40 percent to 25 per cent. Employers need to demonstrate revenue lost during the month in question compared to 2019. Functionally, applications and payments will operate exactly like comparable programs earlier in the pandemic.
The Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit will provide $300 a week to workers directly affected by a COVID-19-related public health lockdowns.
The benefit is available for workers who have lost 50 per cent or more of their income.
Expanded eligibility for both programs is effective as of Dec. 19 through Feb 12, 2022.