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Bay of Chaleur Chamber of Commerce relieved that federal benefit program is simplified and improved


NEW RICHMOND – The Bay of Chaleur Chamber of Commerce administration is relieved to see that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the covid-19 program announced on March 24 by Justin Trudeau, will be designed to be more efficient, simpler and faster. A salary grant system will be used, along with the payroll services used by private employers.

That adjustment, which was announced on March 27, calls for a 75% salary grant provided to businesses affected by the covid-19 crisis.

Maurice Quesnel, director general of the Bay of Chaleur Chamber of Commerce, points out that the federal government is not renowned for the efficiency of its programs, given the numbers available since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the first benefit program, a week earlier.

“In the first program, the Employment Insurance staff received 929,000 requests and after a week, only a little less than 150,000 had been processed. That was before the shutdown called by the Quebec government. (…) It would have taken many weeks before the issuance of cheques,” states Mr. Quesnel.

As first adjusted on March 24, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit would have provided $2,000 monthly to the unemployed for a duration of four months.

“Forty percent of the workers live from pay to pay. They don’t have buffer savings,” Maurice Quesnel adds. “A slow release of the unemployment benefits would have added a social crisis to the health crisis.”

The Bay of Chaleur Chamber of Commerce and the Quebec Federation of Chambers of Commerce had been asking the federal government since March 19, to adopt the model applied by several European countries, including Germany and France.

“Germany is giving a 75% grant of the total payroll of businesses, whether the business has stopped or not. The money is given to each company, and the company’s pay system gives the money to the workers. In France, the government is subsidizing 95% of the total payroll,” explains Maurice Quesnel.

The big advantage of that system consists of using the thousands of pay systems used by the businesses, instead of one centralized system, the federal government’s.

“The federal government has proven that its pay system for the civil servants is terrible, given the problems experienced with the Phoenix pay system. Five years later, it is still not fixed. The number of employment insurance recipients will be far higher than the number of federal civil servants. (…) They (federal authorities) have finally understood the better way to help the people and the businesses,” states Maurice Quesnel.

Revenue Canada civil servants “know exactly how much each company sends monthly as remittances and each company’s total payroll. Scams will be easy to detect once the coronavirus crisis is over. If people leave with money they shouldn’t have, they (Revenue Canada civil servants) will find them,” he states.

“Postponing the PST (Provincial sales tax) and the GST (Goods and services tax) remittances from March 31 to June 30 is also a very good measure. It will take some pressure off the businesses,” concludes Mr. Quesnel.