Trudeau’s warning to businesses who might ’game’ emergency aid: ’Don’t’

In his March 30 coronavirus briefing, the prime minister provided details on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which will cover up to 75 per cent of salary on the first $58,700 earned by employees affected by COVID-19
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 situation in Canada from his residence March 29, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Dave Chan / AFP) (Photo by DAVE CHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 situation in Canada from his residence March 29, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Dave Chan / AFP) (Photo by DAVE CHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a daily update on the coronavirus crisis each day in front of his home in Ottawa, where he remains in isolation after his wife tested positive for COVID-19. Here are his remarks for March 30, 2020.

Hello everyone, bonjour tout le monde.

To help employers keep people on the payroll, we announced that the government would subsidize up to 75 per cent of wages for qualifying businesses.

We know what businesses are going through. Over the past weeks you’ve had to get creative to keep money coming in and in some cases, you’ve had to make the difficult decision of letting your employees go. For people to get through this tough time, and for the economy to rebound, people have to keep their jobs.

So we announced the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. I said last week that we’d have more details to share and that’s the first thing I want to talk with you about today.

If your businesses’ revenues have decreased by at least 30 per cent because of COVID-19, you will be eligible for this subsidy. The number of employees you have will not determine whether or not you get this support. It will apply to non-profit organizations and charities as well as companies both big and small. This is about making sure that people are still getting paid whether they work for a business that employs 10 people or a thousand people.

So here’s what that means for workers. If you work for a company that’s been impacted by COVID-19, the government will cover up to 75 per cent of your salary on the first $58,700 that you earn. That means up to $847 a week. As I mentioned on Friday, this will be backdated to March 15th. This subsidy will make a real difference in your lives and help everyone affected bridge to better times.

In Quebec it’s going to help trucking and logistics company Energy Transportation Group to stay in business so they can keep moving essential goods, like food and toilet paper. In Calgary, it’ll give a little breathing room to the Benj hair salon, which had to close shop to protect the health and safety of their clients. Minister Morneau and Minister Ng are working hard to give companies the background documents explaining the technical details of this measure. And on that note I want to thank the public service who is working around the clock to get this done.

This is first and foremost about you, about hard-working employees across the country. It’s about making sure that you have money to buy groceries now and a job to come back to later, once we’re through this. Every business of every size is having to make some difficult decisions because of COVID-19 and that’s why the number of employees is not the eligibility criteria we’ve chosen. This is in line with best practices we’ve observed in other countries.

That said, I want to offer a word of caution to businesses. We are trusting you to do the right thing.

If you have the means to pay the remaining 25 per cent that’s not covered by the subsidy, please do so. And if you think this is a system you can take advantage of or game, don’t. There will be serious consequences for those who do.

This unprecedented situation calls for unprecedented action and it calls for good faith and trust between everyone involved. We are in this together. And that is why our government is stepping up to help all employers keep their employees.

But for this to work everyone has to do their part. Every dollar of this should go to workers. You should make every effort to top up their wages and every effort to hire back those workers who’ve been laid off in the past two weeks because of COVID-19.

That’s why we set up a comprehensive three-point plan to support everyone across the economy weather the storm and come roaring back. With the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy we’re protecting jobs. With the Canada Emergency Response Benefit we’re helping those who lose their job. And with easy guaranteed loans for businesses of all sizes, we’re helping people who need it access credit.

Our priority is to get you the help you need. To do that, our government must be ready for every scenario. Over the past few weeks, the Canadian Armed Forces have been gearing up to support our efforts and our communities as we fight COVID-19. Our women and men in uniform have always been there for Canadians in their time of need, and this pandemic is no exception.

(In French) For the time being, the federal government has received no request from the provinces to have the army respond. But if that were to change, the Canadian Armed Forces would be prepared to answer the call as they have done throughout our history. Whether it is to bring medical equipment to those who need it, or to help out with forest fires or flooding, our men and women in uniform are always there for you. They have a plan to support our communities during this difficult period. At noon, a number of ministers and the chiefs of the defence staff will hold a media briefing to say more about this. We will also talk about emergency planning with the premiers of the provinces and territories at our next virtual meeting. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the Canadian Armed Forces for their work and their service. You are always ready to step up, and we very much appreciate everything you do for us.

(English) I know we’re all looking forward to the day when things are back to normal. But for that to happen, we all need to keep taking the right steps today.

It means following public health recommendations. You know the drill. Stay home as much as possible. Wash your hands often and keep at least two metres from each other. And our government will keep doing everything we can to make sure workers are getting paid and companies are supported.

The measures we’ve announced will help do just that and ensure that our economy is well positioned to recover from this. We’re going through a tough time right now altogether, but you know your government has your back. And as always, if we need to do more, we will do more.

I want to close this morning by thanking all first-responders across the country, who are doing an incredible job for all Canadians. Medical professionals, first-responders, custodial staff, farmers, people who work along the supply chain—thank you.

Going to work right now is stressful and I know you’re worried, but we are doing everything we can to keep you safe. You are doing essential work and we cannot thank you enough.

As always, Canada, and Canadians, will get through this by leaning on each other and everyone doing their part.

Merci beaucoup mes amis.