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30,000 applications received nationwide for wage subsidy program, government says

Recommendations issued by the Business Resilience Working Group, a partnership between the Yellowknife and Canadian chambers of commerce seek to find solutions for Yellowknife businesses facing downturns during the Covid-19 pandemic. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

Applications opened on Monday for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), with almost 30,000 applications received by mid-afternoon, the federal government said.

Retroactive to March 15, CEWS is aimed at helping employers keep and re-hire employees facing difficulties related to the Covid-19 pandemic, and provides a subsidy of 75 per cent of an eligible worker's weekly earnings, up to maximum of $847 per employee per week for up to 12 weeks.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is administering the program and employers can apply through My Business Account , through the CRA's online application or via Represent A Client.

Claims approved through the CRA's automated verification process will be sent for payment on May 5, with direct deposit payments beginning to arrive in employers' accounts on May 7, according to a CRA news release.

Some applications will need secondary verification and in those cases the CRA might contact employers to verify information. That process could take up to 72 hours to complete in most cases.

It wasn't known how many businesses in the NWT had applied to CEWS because the Ministry of National Revenue doesn't track data by province or territory, said spokesperson Janick Cormier.

The NWT Chamber of Commerce has informed its members about the details of CEWS, but said it doesn't have the capacity to track numbers of applicants, said chairperson Renee Comeau.

Businesses with whom NNSL Media has spoken said the CEWS program is a good effort by the government but has its limits.

One criticism offered by business is that CEWS would be more effective if it was complemented by measures to help companies cover rental costs. That comment was echoed by the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce's Business Resilience Working Group (BRWG), which called for rent relief for small businesses. 

RELATED REPORTING: Yk Chamber of Commerce calls for more relief for business

The BRWG also suggested in its list of recommendations for the municipal, territorial and federal governments that the wage subsidy coverage be increased to account for the higher salaries and higher cost of business in the North. 

On Friday, the prime minister announced a new federal-territorial/provincial program that would reduce the commercial rent of qualifying small businesses by 75 per cent, called the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA).

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will administer the program, for which provinces and territories have agreed to share up to 25 per cent of the costs.

The program will include a rent forgiveness agreement and a moratorium on eviction. The mortgaged commercial property owner would reduce the small business tenant’s monthly rent by at least 75 per cent. The tenant would be responsible for covering 25 per cent, the property owner 25 per cent, and the the federal government and territories or provinces would share the remaining 50 per cent. The forgivable loans would be disbursed to the mortgage lender.

It is to be up and running by mid-May.