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5 things to know about Ottawa’s $82-billion financial-aid package announced Wednesday March 18,2020 to help weather the COVID-19 pandemic:

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Shady Salah – Media in Toronto

New emergency benefits

Ottawa is waiving the one-week waiting period to claim employment insurance sickness benefits. The government is also proposing a new emergency care benefit of up to $900 every two weeks for up to 15 weeks to help workers who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 or taking take of a sick family member, but do not qualify for employment insurance sickness benefits. The new benefit will also be available for parents who can’t earn employment income because they need to care for children, whether or not the parents qualify for employment insurance.

Increased benefits and top-ups

The government is moving to make a special one-time payment to those who receive the goods and services tax credit that will double the maximum annual payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year. The government is also proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year by $300 per child.

Help for businesses

The government wants to provide eligible small employers a temporary wage 10 per cent wage subsidy for three months. The payment will be up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Companies eligible will include those eligible for the small business deduction, as well as non-profit organizations and charities.

Tax delays

The Canada Revenue Agency is pushing back the income-tax filing deadline for individuals until June 1. For trusts with a taxation year the same as the calendar year the filing date will be deferred to May 1. The agency will also allow all businesses to defer, until after Aug. 31, 2020, income-tax payments on amounts that become owing between now and September 2020. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.

Other targeted aid

The government is providing $305 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous community support fund for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Nation communities. It is also placing a six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans. The required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds are being cut by 25 per cent for 2020.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump announced separately the U.S.-Canada border will be temporarily closed to non-essential travel, but Trudeau said the critical supply chain between the two countries will continue.

“I know it’s a hard time but that’s exactly why we need to keep supporting each other,” Trudeau said.

While many civil servants who will be needed to roll out the aid package are working from home, Trudeau said the government has spent the last few days ensuring the capacity to get the money out because too many Canadians and businesses are “looking at their sources of income dry up because of COVID-19.”

“It could make a difference on the health of all Canadians,” he said. “People need to be able to self-isolate, need to be able to stay home, need to be able to care for their families.”

The government has stressed that Canada has a strong financial position that will allow it to absorb the costs.

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