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$73B wage subsidy program opens, but some businesses say it’s too late to help

Applications opened today for a $73-billion wage subsidy program to help businesses that have seen a drop in revenue due to COVID-19.

The support program covers up to 75 per cent of wages for businesses affected by COVID-19. All-sized businesses, charities and non-profits are eligible if they have had a drop in revenue of at least 30 per cent.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will speak about the program at his daily briefing beginning at 11:15 a.m. ET. CBCNews.ca will carry it live.

The subsidy is available for three months, retroactive to March 15, and provides up to $847 a week per employee.

Most businesses that are deemed non-essential have been forced to shut down to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The wage subsidy program aims to keep employees on the payroll, and also to help employers re-hire people they had laid off.

Program starts as some provinces talk of reopening

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said it expects about half of small businesses will apply for the wage subsidy. But many still aren’t clear on how the program works and who is eligible.

“Unfortunately, the subsidy has already come too late for some businesses, who are not currently in a position to rehire laid-off staff,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a statement. 

“But with signs in some provinces that businesses may soon begin a phased approach to reopening, an ongoing wage subsidy may prove very useful in bringing back workers who have been laid off.”

The program opens as some provinces begin to outline plans to reopen their economies. Today, Ontario Premier Doug Ford will announce a strategy for his province.

Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have already laid out their plans for a gradual reopening of their economies.

Businesses can also access a government-backed loan of up to $40,000, of which $10,000 is non-repayable.

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