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Trudeau's daily coronavirus update: Rent help coming for small businesses (Full transcript)

In his April 16 briefing to Canadians about the COVID-19 crisis, the PM announced expanded business loan eligibility, three-months' rent assistance for small businesses, and said Ottawa is working on wage top-ups for essential workers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a daily update on the coronavirus crisis each day in front of his home in Ottawa. Here are his remarks for April 16, 2020.

Hello, everyone.

Just this morning, I had a call with the other G7 leaders to discuss the pandemic. We all remain committed to doing whatever it takes to help people and our economies rebound after this crisis. We’re working together to support international efforts to develop a vaccine, expand treatment, expand testing and ensure critical medical supplies get to the front lines. As I’ve said before, this is a global crisis and it demands a global response. While we’re doing everything to keep people safe in our respective countries, we also have to help more vulnerable nations fight this virus by providing more support for their health care systems, debt relief and other forms of assistance. We will keep working together as partners to ensure the safety and health of people around the world.

[Translated from French] In recent weeks, our government has introduced a series of measures to help people get through these difficult times because of the pandemic. With the Emergency Wage Subsidy, we are allowing more people to continue to receive a wage even if the company they work for has had to slow down or completely shut down its activities. With the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, we are giving $2,000 a month to people who are unable to earn a living because of the virus.

And yesterday we announced that we would be relaxing the eligibility criteria to allow more people to receive the help that they need. If you’re a seasonal worker or if you earn less than a $1,000 per month or you recently exhausted your employment insurance benefits, the Emergency Response Benefit will be there for you.

At the same time we are working with the provinces and territories to top up the wages of essential workers who earn less than $2,500 a month. Caregivers and nursing assistants and others who are working hard to maintain a semblance of normality and who are doing an extraordinary job can be helped. They deserve not only our recognition and our gratitude, but our support. Tonight, I will be discussing that with my colleagues from the provinces and territories at our weekly meeting.

And we will also be talking about how we can better protect our seniors who are in seniors’ residences or in long-term care facilities. Last night, the Minister of Public Health and Public Safety, Bill Blair, received an official request from the government of Quebec to lend a hand to health care workers. We are working closely with Quebec to finalize an assistance plan, and we will have more news to share with you soon with you. But I can tell you now that we will be giving them every possible form of assistance, including the Canadian Red Cross, the Armed Forces and specialized volunteers who have registered with Health Canada. We will always be there for Canadians in difficulty.

Another issue that often comes up at our weekly meetings with the premiers is the supply of medical equipment. I can confirm this morning that the government has finalized contracts with a number of Canadian businesses, including Geometric Energy Corporation of Calgary, which will be providing millions of gloves to our health care workers. And later today, Minister Anand will provide an update with respect to recent developments when it comes to supplies. [end of translation]

Over the past few weeks, we’ve rolled out a series of measures to get people the help they need as quickly as possible. As things evolve, we’re hearing from Canadians who need more help from businesses, who need more support. No one should feel as if they’re alone in this fight. Our government is here to help you through these challenging times. So when we hear the program is not reaching as many people as it should, we make changes.

A few weeks ago, we launched the Canada Emergency Business Account to help small businesses struggling with cash flow. Under this program, banks are offering $40,000 loans, which are guaranteed by the government. To date, more than 195,000 loans have been approved. We’re talking about more than seven and a half billion dollars in credit to small and medium-sized businesses. It’s a start, but Minister Ng and others have heard from business owners who could really use this help, but who do not fit the current admissibility criteria. So we’re gonna make some adjustments because we want to be there to support you.

Today, we are expanding the Canada Emergency Business Account by both increasing and decreasing the eligibility threshold. Now, businesses who spend between $20,000—who spent between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019 will be eligible to receive a loan through the CBA. That’s businesses who spent between 20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019 will now be eligible. This is money entrepreneurs and employers can use to cover operational costs and help with other immediate needs.

Businesses and commercial property owners are also facing specific challenges because of COVID-19. So we plan on introducing the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance. This program will provide support to help small businesses with their rent for the months of April, May and June. To implement this program, we have to work with the provinces and territories as they govern rental relationships and we hope to have more details to share very soon.

It’s been snowing in some places this week, including here in Ottawa, because that’s just what 2020 brings. But we hope that the weather will get nicer. As time goes on, staying home and not seeing friends is going to be even more difficult. We’re gonna miss our colleagues, our friends, our neighbours and our parents even more than we do now.

But we have to be disciplined. We must stay the course. We cannot let the progress we’ve made go to waste. And above all, we cannot put lives at risk.

So, let’s keep following public health recommendations. Wash your hands. Stay home as much as possible. And if you do go out. Be sure to stay at least two metres away from others.

If we persist and persevere, I know that we will prevail. Once again, thank you all for joining us. Now happy to take questions.

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