By Catharine Tunney

The federal government’s emergency wage-subsidy program is going to be extended beyond June.

The program covers 75 per cent of employees’ pay, up to $847, to help employers — who are facing plummeting revenues due to pandemic measures — keep their workers on the payroll for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

The program was set to end June 6. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he’ll offer more details about the extension next week.

News of the extension comes as new Statistics Canada numbers show the country lost almost two million jobs during the month of April — a record high — as the impact of COVID-19 on the economy made itself known.

The agency’s Labour Force Survey data, released Friday, estimates the total number of jobs lost during the crisis at more than three million.

“What we’re seeing, even beyond these reports and these numbers, is the reality on the ground, that people who are already vulnerable in the workforce, people who are already disadvantaged or facing extra barriers, are always the first to get hit when we have a difficult situation like this,” Trudeau told reporters.

“That’s why, as a society, not only do we need to do what we are doing in the short term … we need to make sure that as we move forward to rebuilding and creating a more prosperous Canada in the coming months and years, we think very, very carefully about how important the work that is being done by women and vulnerable Canadians is, and how we need to make sure we’re better supporting them.”

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said that as of Thursday, 120,000 ​​​​​​businesses had applied to the program and about 97,000 have been approved, to cover a total of 1.7 million workers.

“So these are a large number of workers and we are … not only proud of the impact of that program, but we’re also very mindful that this is going to be important as we move forward,” he said.

“The objective of that program was to maintain the important relationship, worker-employee relationship, as we move through the crisis.”

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, applauded the decision to extend the subsidy.

“I give credit to the government for listening carefully to the concerns of small businesses who were worried that this needed support would run out before many are even able to reopen their doors,” he said in a media statement.

Kelly said he’d like to see more changes to help small businesses stay afloat — such as an expansion of the emergency business account to include small firms that pay dividends or contract wages. He said he’d also like the government to consider other avenues to help tenants pay rent if their landlords choose not to participate in the rental assistance program.

Canadians can receive the wage subsidy or the CERB, a taxable benefit that offers workers $2,000 every four weeks if they lose their income as a result of the pandemic.

Originally posted by CBC News on 05/08/2020.