In My Opinion: Federal government is rolling out programs to help Canadians deal with COVID-19 crisis, writes Beaches-East York MP

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the MP for Beaches-East York.

By NATHANIEL ERSKINE-SMITH

The curve is bending and our economy is slowly beginning to re-open, but we need to remain vigilant.

As individuals, we need to maintain our determination and keep our physical distance from one another. As governments, we need to move much more quickly to scale up rapid testing and contact tracing efforts. These are issues I continue to pursue on the Industry Committee.

To date, our federal government has committed $390 million for vaccine R&D, $662 million to support clinical trials, and $350 million to expand testing and modelling, and established a task force led by five top doctors, including Dr. David Naylor (past chair of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health).

We have also worked hard to expand our social safety net and economic support. In doing so, our government has moved quickly to roll out new programs and, importantly, has listened and adjusted these programs based on the feedback we’ve heard.

For example, I pushed hard to expand the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and it now includes those who lost a significant amount of income but still earn a small amount, up to $1,000 per month.

Knowing that the CERB does not help many students, we announced a $9 billion package, including a $1,250 monthly benefit from May to August ($2,000 for those with dependents or disability), doubled student grants, and a new service grant for those volunteering to address the pandemic.

Through the Canada Summer Job program, our local office has been able to deliver $125,000 to create jobs for young Canadians at Michael Garron Hospital in their efforts to support long-term care homes, $50,000 for Shelter Movers to address domestic violence, and much more for other local service organizations.

For small businesses, we’ve already seen changes to the emergency business account, and I expect additional adjustments to ensure greater access to the $40,000 interest-free loan ($10,000 forgivable). While commercial tenancies are provincial, and I hope to see Ontario take stronger action against evictions, our federal government has funded 75 per cent of the rent assistance program co-developed with provinces. If your landlord won’t participate, I will call them personally.

The most significant federal support for businesses and workers continues to be the 75 per cent wage subsidy, and we’ve extended the program beyond its original June deadline.

Our government has also supported specific sectors, with $350 million for charities and non-profits that are serving those affected by the pandemic, $500 million for arts, culture and sports organizations, and more for other sectors and through economic development agencies.

For essential workers, we’ve guaranteed a wage top-up through $3 billion in support, to be delivered through the province.

All told, the vast majority of the financial support we’ve seen in this crisis has come from our federal government.

You can find detailed information about these programs at www.beynate.ca, and I encourage you to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter there as well. You can also join our online Q&A every Thursday at 8 p.m. at fb.com/beynate, and follow my podcast series at uncommons.ca, in which I’m joined by experts and parliamentary colleagues to discuss issues of the day. For example, in a recent episode, Minister Bill Blair answers questions about our recent action to strengthen gun control.

In these difficult times, we continue to be here to serve you in any way that we can.


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