Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has said, Canada's small businesses are places that make our communities feel like home. Restaurants and cafes have had to close their doors; tech companies are impacted, and bookshops and clothing stores have had to lay off their staff. Small businesses truly are the heart of our communities, employing 8.3 million hard-working Canadians and accounting for nearly seven out of 10 private sector jobs in the country.
I start with this statistic because Canadians have been hearing a lot about small businesses recently, and although a lot of people can think of a small business owner, or they themselves are small business owners, we do not often think that small businesses are the driver of our national economy. However, they are, and I know that Canadians across the country want to see their favourite business reopen and thrive after all of this is over.
Our economy needs small businesses to remain resilient and to rebuild in the weeks and months to come, so I want Canadians to know that, in the face of COVID-19, we are listening to our business owners and our employers and responding to them. Right now, our goal is to save jobs and save businesses. We know that the single most important asset that businesses have in that recovery are their employees.
Growing up helping my own parents run their small business, I know it can often be a family affair. With 75% of Canadian small businesses having fewer than 10 employees, I have heard from many employers that their teams are so closely knit that they feel like family. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are all in this together. Whether they are small businesses that have had to temporarily close or lay off employees to reduce hours, or are struggling to pay rent, we know that they have been facing some seemingly impossible decisions recently, and we want them to know that their government is with them every step of the way.
For those business owners who have agonized over how to make their payroll, we have introduced the Canada emergency wage subsidy to support the payment of up to 75% of wages for the first $58,700 of an employee's earnings. This means up to $847 a week for workers who stay on the payroll. This would not only give workers certainty, but it would help keep our businesses in fighting form, ready to bounce back when we are through this. Let me reiterate: The whole point of this is to keep businesses intact because we know that when it is safe to do so, businesses that remain connected to their employees will be in a better position to lead our economic recovery.
Therefore, I am pleased that organizations like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters all agree that the Canada emergency wage subsidy would help employers keep paying hundreds of thousands of their most valued employees during this difficult situation.
The government's support for small businesses certainly does not end there. We have doubled the maximum length of the work-sharing program, for example. This would provide income support to employees eligible for EI who agree to reduce their normal working hours because of developments beyond the control of their employers. We are doing all of this because we know that people are really the heart and soul of our businesses. We want employers to feel able to keep their families together. I know from my own experience how personal a small business really is.
At the same time, we know that there are plenty of expenses beyond payroll that still need to be covered. That is why we established the business credit availability program, which would help to finance small businesses that are struggling because of COVID-19. As part of this program, we have introduced the Canada emergency business account, which would provide up to $40,000 in loans, interest-free, to help with those short-term costs.
To further help businesses with cash flow, we have worked with the financial sector to open up billions of dollars more in lending capacity through financial institutions such as banks and credit unions, as well as through the Business Development Bank of Canada, Export Development Canada and Farm Credit Canada.
The program will help companies in all regions and in all sectors, all of our small businesses. Whether it is oil and gas, air transportation, or exports and tourism, we are going to help all of these businesses.
Speaking of tourism, Parks Canada is working with tourism entrepreneurs in national parks, historical sites and marine conservation areas to help minimize the impacts of COVID-19 on those industries. The decision has already been made to defer payments on commercial leases and licences of occupation without interest until September 2020. To help the people who feed us, Farm Credit Canada has received an additional $5 billion of support so it can help our farmers and our agri-food businesses. This assistance is both in the liquidity and to help keep people on the payroll.
We have also been introducing ways to defer other kinds of expenses that come up for businesses, to help keep their costs low. We are allowing businesses to defer income tax payments incurred between March and September 2020 until August 31, and we will defer GST and HST remittances and customs duty payments until June 30, 2020. To help small business owners and entrepreneurs who have lost their income, we are helping with the Canada emergency response benefit, giving them $2,000 a month. This will help those sole proprietors struggling with cash flow right now to bridge to better times.
Through these measures, we are offering new flexibility to different types of businesses dealing with the impact of COVID-19. Let me share a couple of examples. We are working with the owners of a wholesale fibre mill at the moment, one that has been operating for 15 years, providing good jobs for its six full-time employees: that is, until two weeks ago, when the mill had to temporarily close its doors due to lack of demand. It plans to gradually restart its operations within a week, and it will conduct the required maintenance during this partial shutdown. We are working with those mill owners so that they can bridge through with the Canada emergency business account to cover the overhead and carry out the required maintenance. We are going to work with the owners to bring back those six employees through the emergency wage subsidy. Given that both of the owners, who were on payroll, have not been taking a wage since the closing, we are helping them so they can access support through the CERB to help them bridge through this difficult period.
Another example I can give is a younger company: a two-year-old bakery with five employees plus the owner. This small business was on an upward trajectory before COVID-19, but now its retail sales have plummeted 50%. With the demand for bread remaining strong, however, the bakery has decided to work through its challenges. Through the emergency wage subsidy, it is going to keep the bakers employed just to make the bread. The bakery has applied for a loan through the business emergency account to bridge the payroll expenses, but also to set up an online ordering system. Like the mill owners, the bakery owner is going to choose to leave cash in the business and draw on the CERB to support it through this time.
There are thousands upon thousands of small businesses just like this bakery and this fibre mill that need help. Through all of these actions, we are trying to give businesses the breathing room so that they can keep their employees on payroll, pay the bills, cover the rent, and know that they will still be on their feet once this crisis has passed.
These decisions and changes will come as a result of direct consultations with businesses from coast to coast to coast. Through conference calls and Skype sessions over the last couple of weeks, our government has been listening and speaking with businesses all across the country, in every sector and in every region. Through these conversations, it has been heartening to hear from small business owners and entrepreneurs and from so many hard-working Canadians about the real difference that the emergency wage subsidy and all the other measures will make to their businesses and to their families: like the restaurant owners in Halifax who wrote in to say that they are going to be able to put their staff back on payroll and they will be ready to open when it is safe to do so, or the dentist here in Ottawa who turned his passion into a successful practice; now he is not seeing patients and is sending his staff home, but he will be able to keep paying the bills and keep paying his employees.
We will continue to listen to the very needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. We will continue to explore ways to bring more relief, not only for our businesses but also for the hard-working critical workers across this country because we are going to get through this together.