Local business and labour applaud details of wage subsidy plan

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell




Local business and labour groups welcomed the details of the changed wage subsidy and business supports program revealed Monday by the federal government.

The plan will see a wage subsidy boosted from the original proposal of 10 per cent to 75 per cent and a loosening of the criteria to qualify.

Now any business that has lost at least 30 per cent of its revenues, regardless of size or number of employees, is eligible.

“It’s a very positive step to increase the subsidy and take out the caps on businesses,” said Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Rakesh Naidu.

“There’s a few more details to come, but it if there remains no cap, this is great.”

The wage subsidy will be retroactive to March 15.

Naidu estimated nearly all businesses in the Windsor region would qualify for the wage subsidy program.

“At least 75 to 80 per cent of small and medium businesses fall into that category of losing 30 per cent or more of their revenues,” Naidu said.

Naidu added the chamber is also pleased to see that those in the gig economy and business owners qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit worth $2,000 per month.

“At least it gives small and medium business owners something for the next four months,” Naidu said.

Naidu said also allowing businesses to defer paying HST, GST, import taxes and duties until June is another positive step that creates some breathing room.

“Combined with the deferrals on property and health taxes, it starts to add up,” Naidu said.

Windsor and District Labour Council President Brian Hogan was also happy to see the federal government has listened to the pleas for support for workers.

“There are some good things in there, but we have to keep pushing to see where there are gaps in helping people,” Hogan said.

Hogan was pleased that non-profits and charities also qualify for help under the program.

“With the number of people being laid off, food banks and soup kitchens are going to be bursting at the seams,” Hogan said. “All of us are going through the same challenge.”

Hogan added labour would like to see paid sick days and some kind of drug coverage also addressed. He’s also concerned about health and safety issues for those still working on the frontlines.

“Health and safety comes first not just keeping the doors open,” Hogan said.

“If it’s safe, we do want the economy to still be churning.”

Naidu said he isn’t sure how many businesses would be able to top up their employees’ wages.

“I hope they will, but the challenge is there’s just not a lot of dollars coming in to top up wages right now,” Naidu said. “There’s real cash flow challenges.”

However, he does believe the subsidy will result in employers keeping on some employees.

“They know keeping employees makes it easier to restart when this is past,” Naidu said. “If we don’t keep employees, the recovery period will be a lot longer.”