By Catharine Tunney

The federal government says targeted aid is coming for some businesses hit by closures as a second wave of COVID-19 hits parts of the country.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, flanked by the prime minister and other cabinet colleagues, announced the new program at a news conference in Ottawa today.

“The difficult reality is that the health measures we are taking to contain COVID-19 mean there are some businesses that simply cannot operate at full capacity, and some are closed down by public health orders. These measures are to support those businesses and to provide a bridge for all of us to the full containment of the virus,” she said.

“I want to stress that this is not for everyone. Some businesses are able to work at full capacity despite COVID 19 and they are doing well and that’s great.”

Freeland didn’t immediately indicate how much money small businesses will receive, what will be covered or how to apply.

The federal government also rolled out its overhauled rent relief program, which the government said will now allow businesses to apply directly for relief through the Canada Revenue Agency.

The old program, which was meant to ease the pressure on businesses hit by the pandemic by covering a portion of their rent, was roundly criticized by businesses because tapping into the program depended on buy-in from landlords, who were under no obligation to participate.

The previous version of the program expired last month.

Caseloads rising

Today’s announcement comes as federal officials released new modelling figures showing the growth of caseloads continuing to accelerate across the country — most rapidly in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.

The updated projections show that the national caseload could climb to 197,830 by Oct. 17, with up to 9,800 deaths.

Ontario reported 939 new cases of COVID-19 — the province’s highest-ever daily number of new cases. Doctors are also sounding the alarm about an increased number of COVID-19 patients being admitted to intensive care units.

Those startling figures have prompted Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet to hold an emergency meeting to consider tighter public health measures to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

In Quebec, nearly all municipalities between the Montreal region and the Quebec City area along the St. Lawrence river are now considered pandemic “red zones”.

Provincial Health Minister Christian Dubé said new, stricter measures will soon be enacted and police checkpoints will be imposed to protect other zones, such as the Lac Saint-Jean area. Police will be checking to ensure people are travelling for essential reasons, he said.

Originally posted by CBC News on 10/09/2020.