The federal government’s latest projection of how much it will spend on direct support for Canadians to get through the COVID-19 crisis has now reached more than $145.6 billion.
Those direct support programs account for approximately one fifth of the overall tally of the measures the government has announced related to the pandemic.
Ottawa estimates that overall total — including measures to protect Canadians health and safety and to provide business and tax liquidity support as well as the direct support for individuals, businesses and sectors — amounts to more than $817 billion.
But much of that is not spending that will end up on the books. For example, a large portion, $300 billion, is a measure by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OFSI) to free up capital for the banks.
Another big part of that overall total are tax deferrals and credit and loan guarantee programs:
- Credit and liquidity supports through the Bank of Canada and CMHC are projected at $200 billion.
- Income and sales tax deferrals are estimated at $85 billion.
- Liquidity support for businesses, homeowners and the agricultural sector is estimated at more than $286 billion.
But while there is a cost associated with those programs, deferrals, credit support and monetary measures essentially just put off when the government gets paid.
It’s the additional emergency funding and the direct support measures that will have the biggest impact on the deficit and debt in the government’s financial books.
Here are some of the most significant ones.
$73 billion: Canada emergency wage subsidy
The biggest single program is the Canada emergency wage subsidy, or CEWS, which is aimed at covering up to 75 per cent of wages for businesses so that they don’t have to lay people off. The Canada Revenue Agency has an online calculator to help businesses figure out how much they could get. The online portal to apply is expected to open Monday, with money starting to flow the week of May 4.
$35 billion: Canada emergency relief benefit
The fastest program out the door is the Canada emergency relief benefit, or CERB, which has temporarily absorbed most Employment Insurance claims as well. It provides $2,000 a month for four months. The government has received more than nine million applications as of April 21, resulting in $21.3 billion in payments so far — so the price tag here may rise. And the government hasn’t ruled out extending the benefit past the four months.
$13.7 billion: Canada emergency business account
The Canada emergency business account, or CEBA, makes available, through banks, interest-free loans of $40,000 to qualifying businesses. Up to $10,000 of that amount is forgivable. The government says 351,000 small businesses have been granted loans so far.
$5.5 billion: GST credits
An enhanced GST credit for low-income individuals was one of the first measures announced. Additional amounts were deposited in early April.
$9 billion: Financial aid to students
The $5.2-billion Canada student emergency benefit accounts for the largest chunk of support aimed at post-secondary students. It provides $1,250 a month (and up to $1,750 for students who are caregivers) from May to August for current college or university students, those that were set to start in the fall and recent graduates who had finished their degree after December. The government also announced grants for student volunteers and $291 million to extend expiring federal graduate research scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships, as well as interest-free student loan deferrals.
$1.7 billion: Orphan well clean up
The largest line item for sector support goes to cleaning up former oil and gas wells, also known as orphan wells. The aim is to get out-of-work energy workers working, with the added bonus of doing something that helps the government’s environmental agenda.
Trudeau said more measures are likely to be announced going forward, including support for seniors.