Federal programs well received

Megan Walchuk

With so many people out of work and businesses suffering, Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski’s office has been kept busy with constituents looking for help. The federal government has been trying to accommodate, rolling out a number of programs aimed at mitigating the financial impact of COVID-19.

“The programs have been well received,” said Powlowski.

The federal government has so far released $27 billion in relief to Canadians and Canadian companies, including the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which assists those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Businesses can also now apply for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which pays up to 75 per cent of employee wages for three months, to minimize layoffs across the country.

Powlowski doesn’t know to what extent the programs have been utilized in the Rainy River District, but several business owners are pleased to have them available for those who need them.

“I think it’s a great program and a great idea,” said Boston Pizza owner Dale Fortes. He’s tried to keep layoffs to a minimum at his business, despite a significant drop in revenue. Although the kitchen isn’t as busy, he’s given staff a to-do list to ride out the slowdown.

“All those projects we’ve been putting off, all those things you say we’ll get to them someday. We’ve been able to get to them,” he said.

While he’s trying to keep staff busy and on the payroll with deep cleaning and reorganizing, the hardships faced by many other businesses and their employees isn’t lost on him.

“These are very tough times,” he said.

Powlowski added that as businesses and individuals navigate all the paperwork and new rules, they don’t need to do it alone.

“Often with these things, the devil is in the details,” said Powlowski. “Anyone having trouble with the process should call my office for help.”

In addition to CERB and CEWS, the federal government has announced:

  • a temporary salary top-up for low income essential workers
  • an increase to the Canada Child Benefit
  • a one-time special Goods and Services tax Credit payment
  • Extra time to file income tax returns
  • mortgage support.

For the Indigenous population:

  • addressing the needs of Indigenous communities
  • support for Indigenous public health
  • increased subsidies to Nutrition North

For vulnerable Canadians:

  • support for women and children fleeing violence
  • support for people experiencing homelessness
  • increased mental health support for youth

For seniors:

  • reduced minimum withdrawls for Registered Retirement Income Funds
  • Support for delivery and outreach for seniors
  • an expansion to the New Horizons for Seniors funding program

For students:

  • a suspension on repayment and interest on student and apprentice loans
  • temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program

Businesses have industry-specific programs. For more information on business and personal programs from the federal government, visit www.canada.ca.

Powlowski is expecting more programs to be announced over the coming weeks, to address shortfalls as they arise.

“Things are changing so fast,” he said.