Mr. Speaker, it is wonderful to be here today and great to see so many of my colleagues virtually while I am in the wonderful riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge. I will be splitting my time this morning with the member for Sherbrooke.
Before I get to the heart of the matter, I wish to say that where I am located is surrounded by small businesses. There is a local bakery shop, a convenience store, a cleaner and a restaurant. We know businesses across Canada, just like the ones here in Vaughan—Woodbridge, need our assistance. We have been providing that assistance, whether through the Canada emergency business account, the new rental program or the existing rental program, which will be finishing up. However, we also knew we needed to work with the provinces when we introduced the first rental program.
I wish to acknowledge that these small businesses did not do anything. Rather, this was an exogenous shock to the economy, as we say in economics. These small businesses were working hard. They were investing in their businesses. They were growing. They were hiring Canadians and creating great middle-class jobs from coast to coast to coast. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, we have seen, not just in Canada but throughout the world, that small businesses need our assistance, and our government has responded.
We have listened to the CFIB, business councils and small business owners. What we see in the legislation, in Bill C-9, is a flexibility that we are providing to businesses so we can continue to reinforce that bridge. We need to get to the other side. We know winter and spring are coming, and we need to ensure businesses have the confidence and certainty that the government has their backs, and that is what we are doing.
I am thankful for this opportunity to speak on today's motion. In my remarks, I would like to focus on the aspects of the motion that relate to the important Canada emergency wage subsidy and provide some insight on what the government has done to ensure this important measure is available to all those vital businesses across Canada that qualify for it. This government recognizes that, although the economy is slowly reopening, many people are still impacted by COVID-19 in devastating ways, and they continue to face very challenging economic circumstances as a result.
The government introduced the Canada emergency wage subsidy, or CEWS, in April to provide financial support to employers of all sizes that had been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Since its launch, more than 1.4 million CEWS applications have been approved.
I need to give a shout-out to the phenomenal team of civil servants and bureaucrats at the Canada Revenue Agency. They have worked tirelessly night and day to deliver programs to millions of Canadians who have been, and continue to be, impacted by COVID-19. Whether it is in respect to the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency wage subsidy, or even the new rental benefit, the folks at the CRA have just been top notch. We need to applaud them for their efforts in helping all Canadians, whether they are business owners or workers.
Additionally, millions of Canadian employees have had their jobs supported through the CEWS program, and that number continues to grow. The CEWS program, which is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency, has provided more than $45 billion dollars in support for Canadian businesses as of October 25, 2020. The CEWS program is an essential part of the government's COVID-19 economic response plan, which strives to support Canadian businesses by helping them avoid lay-offs and rehire employees.
Throughout the past few months the government has made changes to expand the reach of the CEWS in order to meet the needs of Canadian businesses. The program, originally launched for a 12-week period, has been extended multiple times, and just yesterday the government introduced legislation that would extend the program until June 2021. This would continue to protect jobs by helping employers keep employees on the payroll and rehire their workers.
Keeping the attachment of the employer-employee relationship is so important. We have seen the rebound in the Canadian labour market, and how it is outperforming many of our global peers. We are seeing employees returning to their work, but while we continue to experience the impacts of COVID-19, it is important we maintain the attachment between the employer and employee.
The wage subsidy would remain at the current rate of up to 65% of eligible wages until December 19, 2020. The eligibility requirements for CEWS have also been expanded to include a greater number of employers by including those who experienced a revenue decline of less than 30%.
Additionally, other enhancements to the CEWS program are being proposed to ensure that CEWS continues to not only support employers, but also to respond and really enhance the flexibility of the CEWS program to the evolving Canadian health and economic situation. These adjustments to the program help ensure that CEWS addresses Canadians' needs, while also positioning them for success as we move through the economic recovery.
The government has striven to make the application process simple in order to get the money out the door quickly and into the hands of those who need it. In most cases, eligible employers receive their CEWS monies via direct deposit within 10 days of their application. In fact, eligible employers can apply for the CEWS through the CRA's My Business Account portal, and authorized representatives can apply on behalf of their clients through the CRA's Represent a Client portal. Additionally, both groups can apply through the CEWS web forms.
In order to make the process simpler, the government also developed an online CEWS calculator, which allows employers to estimate the amount of the subsidy they will receive for each claim period. The CRA's approach to CEWS compliance starts with providing early certainty through outreach and engagement with businesses and stakeholder groups, FAQs addressing common questions and auditors helping staff the CEWS inquiries line. This is all done to help businesses get it right from the start.
When more detailed review is needed with a CEWS claim, the CRA's focus remains on doing so as quickly as is practical. In fact, significant focus was placed on tools and information to help taxpayers get it right from the start. From calculators to outreach sessions, to updated questions on the website, helping businesses and their representatives has been our focus.
Along with the support of client focus, the approach to post-payment verifications of wage subsidy claims was designed by officials to reflect the current reality. Significant tax dollars are in scope. More than $45 billion in wage subsidies have been paid, and the program will continue to provide billions more to Canadian businesses and, obviously, their employees.
Within a few short weeks from launch to implementation, and less than five months since inception, it would be normal to see many more mistakes and grey areas than we find with more mature programs. We have to remember that the Government of Canada has rolled out a number of programs to help Canadian business and employees in a few short weeks, which would normally take years to do. We have been there for Canadian businesses and workers and we will continue to do so.
Many businesses are struggling financially and, with the pandemic, the CRA should match the scope of its compliance efforts to the size and scope of the issue. The CRA should apply targeted, minimally intrusive and commensurate interventions that reflect the nature and degree of any issue. Given this, the CRA has designed a multi-step approach to lead off with an initial phase of less than 600 verifications of claimants of all sizes who had some risk indicators.
Strategically, the overall analysis of these internal initial audits will provide the information needed to understand the nature and prevalence of issues, allow the CRA to consult with the Department of Finance on questions of interpretation and inform the options for addressing those issues needing further attention. CRA auditors were directed to be flexible on the timeliness for this work and to focus slowly on the calculations for the wage subsidy.
The government acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for all Canadians and that attempting to navigate the subsidy may be challenging, especially for those with questions about their eligibility or their own application. Up-to-date information on the CEWS and other recovery benefits is available at canada.ca/coronavirus.
If honest Canadians discover that they have made a mistake in their CEWS applications, they can easily make adjustments to their applications through the CRA's My Business Account. However, the government takes fraud very seriously, and the CRA is able to impose penalties against employers who have submitted fraudulent claims. The CEWS program is meant to prevent further job losses, encourage employers to rehire employees they had laid off due to COVID-19 and help Canadian businesses of all sizes, as well as other eligible employers, position themselves to better resume their normal activities after the crisis.
As part of the COVID-19 economic response plan, the government identifies its key areas of focus as support for individuals, support for businesses, support for sectors, support for organizations helping Canadians, and support for provinces and territories. The CEWS certainly provides support for businesses, but by helping keep millions of Canadians in their jobs, it also helps support individual Canadians and helps ensure the economic viability of hard hit sectors.
As the Canadian economy continues to safely reopen, a robust workforce is essential. The CEWS has supported Canadian organizations, both large and small, in such diverse industries as agriculture, manufacturing, food services, health care, social services, arts and entertainment, and hospitality.
I will finish there. I look forward to questions and comments.