Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade.
We are living in a strange time. On Wednesday, Passover Seders were moved online. This Easter weekend, churches normally filled with people are standing empty. Towns and cities across this country have strangely empty streets. The public health measures required to stop the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing and the closing of public and private spaces, are having a profound impact on Canadians and on our economy. All sectors of the economy are being effected by COVID-19 as civil society has mobilized to stop the spread of this disease.
Whether times are good or bad, businesses provide the jobs, products and services that Canadians rely on to keep their communities going.
Small businesses in particular are vulnerable. They are the heart of our communities and they need to be supported. We know non-profits and charities are facing challenges too. Canadians' needs for their services are going up, but their donations are going down.
These employers need our help to protect the jobs of Canadians who work hard and to maintain the resilience of our economy.
As leaders, we need to confront the very real needs of Canadian business owners and workers, and take action to give them the support they urgently need in the face of this pandemic. This is where the Canada emergency wage subsidy comes in. To help Canadians and businesses get through these tough economic times, the government is proposing through this legislation a wage subsidy of 75% for qualifying employers for up to three months, retroactive to March 15, 2020. The Canada emergency wage subsidy is a key measure to ensure that Canadian families can count on a source of income through this difficult time.
The Canada wage subsidy would allow businesses to retain their employees and rehire workers who were laid off to ensure that the Canadian economy can recover from this crisis from a position of strength. It is important to note that by retaining their employees, Canadian businesses will rebound better after the crisis.
The Canada emergency wage subsidy is proposed to apply at a rate of 75% of the first $58,700 earned by employees, representing a benefit of $847 per week, per employee. The program would be in place for a 12-week period from March 15 to June 6 of 2020. Eligible employers would be those who suffer a drop in gross revenues of at least 15% in March, or 30% in April or May, when compared to the same month in 2019 or to an average of January and February 2020 revenues.
This subsidy is being offered to employers of all sizes and in every sector, with the exception of public sector entities. Our government wants employers and employees across the entire country to get the help they need.
Non-profits and registered charities will be able to benefit from all of the additional flexibilities for the revenue drop test that I have just described.
We also know that different types of organizations in this vitally important sector are facing different types of funding pressures. Non-profit organizations and charities will, therefore, be able to choose between including government revenues and excluding them when calculating their drop in revenue. Eligible employers would be able to access the Canada emergency wage subsidy by applying through a Canada Revenue Agency online portal.
The amount of the wage subsidy will be determined on the basis of the actual wages or compensation paid to the employees. We expect every employer to do everything they can to cover the difference to get the wages to 100% of the maximum amount covered.
We have designed the subsidy to provide generous and timely financial support to employers and we expect that employers will use this subsidy to support the health and well-being of their employees. The legislation includes a provision to protect the integrity of the program and to ensure it is not misused. An officer of any organization that applies would have to attest to the accuracy of the claims. Any company that receives the benefit and is then discovered to be ineligible would have to repay the amount of subsidy received, and there would be serious consequences for anyone who tried to take advantage of the subsidy.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing disruption across our economy in ways big and small. The Canada emergency wage subsidy is only one of a myriad of measures introduced by the government recently to support Canadians through the outbreak of COVID-19. Over the last three weeks, our government has announced a series of broad economy-wide supports as a part of Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan. This plan will help to ensure Canadians can weather this storm.
Our government is offering the Canada emergency response benefit to anyone who loses all their income because of COVID-19. The application period opened on Monday and millions of Canadians filed their application.
Our government is also allowing businesses, including self-employed workers, to put off their GST/HST payments and import duties owing until June. This measure is akin to giving Canadian businesses interest-free loans worth as much as $30 billion. What is more, our government has extended the deadline for filing income tax returns and remitting income tax owing, which leaves $55 billion circulating in our economy. These measures will help businesses continue to pay their employees and their bills and contribute to controlling the liquidity problems companies are experiencing across the country.
Our government has also introduced the new Canada emergency business account. This program will provide $25 billion to eligible financial institutions to provide interest-free loans that include a partial write-off with conditions to small businesses, including not-for-profit organizations.
These loans of up to $40,000, guaranteed and funded by the Government of Canada, will ensure that small businesses have access to the capital they need at a 0% interest rate so they can pay for rent and other important costs over the next number of months. Additionally, if they pay the loan back before December 31, 2022, 25% of it, up to $10,000, will be forgivable.
For small and medium-sized companies that require greater help to meet their operational cash flow requirements, our government created the new small and medium-sized enterprise loan and guarantee program, which will provide $40 billion in lending support, through the EDC and BDC, for small businesses, to help them weather the impacts of COVID-19.
These are uncertain times. We understand that Canadians urgently need support. We are using all the tools available to make sure we protect Canadians' health and keep our economy strong. Now is the time for us to come together and to work together. Across the country we are seeing civic action on a level not seen in generations. We know Canadians are staying home to help stop the spread of this disease. By doing this, they are saving lives and protecting our front-line workers.
I am calling on all parliamentarians to swiftly pass this bill. Canadian workers and businesses deserve the certainty. We know that when this crisis passes, and it will pass, Canada's workers and businesses will be ready to bounce back, building an even stronger and better Canada.