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Trudeau promises 75% wage subsidy for businesses hit by coronavirus pandemic

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The federal wage subsidy for small and medium-sized businesses hit by the new coronavirus pandemic is jumping up to 75 per cent, the prime minister announced on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters at his daily update from Rideau Cottage, where he remains in isolation, as cases of the new coronavirus continue to spread across the country.

READ MORE: Canadian unemployment could hit 15 per cent amid coronavirus pandemic, deficit to $113B

Last week, Trudeau announced a 10 per cent wage subsidy but admitted Friday that it’s not enough.

Feds unveil measures to help keep businesses afloat
Feds unveil measures to help keep businesses afloat

“It’s becoming clear that we need to do more — much more — so we’re bringing that percentage up to 75 per cent for qualifying businesses,” he said. “This means people will continue to be paid even though their employers have to slow down or stop their businesses.”

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That wage subsidy will be backdated to March 15.

Coronavirus around the world: March 27, 2020
Coronavirus around the world: March 27, 2020

The news prompted an immediate response from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce praising the move and calling it “exactly what the doctor ordered, and what business groups have been asking for.”

It’s not clear at this time what the details are on that subsidy, including whether it will have a capped amount or an end date, but Trudeau said more details should be released on Monday.

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Trudeau also said the government will be offering a new Canada Emergency Business Account to provide loans of up to $40,000 to small and medium-sized businesses that will be interest-free for one year.

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The move comes hours after Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux released a forecast report based on the possibility of physical distancing lasting until August. The report predicted the national unemployment rate could rise to 15 per cent by the end of the year.

Coronavirus: Small businesses struggling to stay open
Coronavirus: Small businesses struggling to stay open

Trudeau was asked about that report and how long Canadians can be expected to stay indoors and put their lives on hold, but the prime minister didn’t offer clear answers.

“We are looking at all possible scenarios. Some scenarios are more serious and last longer than others, and this really depends on the choices Canadians make today,” he said. “We know that we’re talking about weeks, and perhaps months, but we will see if we are flattening the curve.”

Trudeau was also asked during the press conference when Canadians will see a budget-style accounting of all the spending measures he is rolling out.

He refused to answer the question, saying more spending is necessary.

More to come.

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