Remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister on the Temporarily Expanded Eligibility for the Lockdown Program and Worker Lockdown Benefit

Speech

December 22, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario - Department of Finance Canada

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In the past few days, there has been a rise in COVID-19 cases. Some regions of the country are reporting a record number of cases. The Omicron variant of the virus is much more transmissible than the others.

And we cannot be complacent.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have strived to be flexible and to adapt to the changing nature of the pandemic. Within our programs, we are ensuring there is sufficient flexibility in order to respond quickly and effectively.

Last week, we passed Bill C-2. This legislation allowed for the implementation of targeted measures to support workers and businesses if lockdowns are needed to contain the spread of the virus.

In October, when we introduced these more targeted measures, we didn’t know the Omicron variant was coming. But we made sure we were ready.

Today, through regulatory authorities that were approved with the passage of Bill C-2, we are announcing our decision to temporarily expand the definition of a lockdown so that these wage and rent support programs can support workers and businesses that see capacity restricted by 50 per cent or more.

So, what does this mean exactly? It means that if you are an employer who has to reduce the capacity of your main business by 50 per cent or more, you will be eligible for the wage and rent subsidy support through the Local Lockdown Program.

And we are lowering the revenue decline threshold from 40 per cent to 25 per cent. Eligible employers will receive wage and rent subsidy support from 25 per cent up to 75 per cent, depending on how much revenue they have lost. And your organization only needs to demonstrate revenue loss during the current month, compared with 2019.

Employers will be able to apply for these expanded support programs after the end of each program period, in exactly the same way that they received wage and rent subsidy support when those programs were launched.

For workers, our decision means that if you are working in a region where the provincial or territorial government has introduced capacity restrictions of 50 per cent or more, and if you have lost 50 per cent or more of your income as a direct result of those restrictions, you can qualify for the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit. This benefit will put $300 a week in your pocket to supplement your lost wages.

This proposed expanded eligibility will be effective as of last Sunday, December 19, 2021, and it will run through to February 12, 2022. Many parts of the country have already announced “circuit-breaker” public health restrictions in order to curb the rise in cases of COVID-19.

These expanded support measures will ensure that provinces and public health authorities across the country can continue to make the right, difficult decisions they need to make to save lives – confident in the knowledge that the federal government will be there to financially support workers and businesses as we finish this fight.

Our government knows that other businesses are still affected by the pandemic. As of yesterday, eligible employers can apply for financial support through the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program and the Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program.

These programs provide wage and rent subsidy support of up to 75 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

When we announced these programs in October, we estimated that they would cost $7.5 billion. Last week, in the Economic and Fiscal Update, we set aside $4.5 billion to account for the impact of the Omicron variant. The cost of expanding the support programs is estimated at $4 billion and will be fully covered by the amount provisioned in the Update.

And finally, let me add, that public companies receiving the wage subsidy through these support programs that increase their top executive compensation in 2022 compared to 2019 will have this wage subsidy support clawed back.

These companies will also become ineligible if they pay dividends while receiving the wage subsidy.

As Dr. Tam reminded us last week, all pandemics do end.  

The emergence and the swift rise of Omicron is not something that any of us welcome. It is coming at a hard time – at a time when, particularly our remarkable health care workers, are really, really tired.

But I know that we can and we must do whatever it takes to beat this virus and to finish the fight against COVID-19.

Canadians are smart. We are resilient. We support each other. And we have the tools we need, both health care tools and financial support measures, to win this fight against COVID-19.

With today’s expanded support, Canadians can follow new provincial health restrictions knowing that the federal government is there, as we have been from the start, to support everyone.

Thank you.

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