Justin Trudeau promises rent relief for businesses, says economic recovery still “many weeks” off

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At an April 16 press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised more help for businesses and pledged to help the provinces deal with the concerning spread of the novel coronavirus in long-term care homes across the country. 

Starting the conference by mentioning his earlier discussion with G7 leaders, Trudeau said Canada is committed to global efforts to develop a vaccine and make progress on testing and treatments for COVID-19. He also said that Canada and other countries will need to help more vulnerable nations cope with the virus through a number of measures, such as by providing support or offering debt relief. 

Acknowledging again the devastating impact the pandemic has had on businesses, Trudeau announced that the federal government is expanding the Canada Emergency Business Account. 

The prime minister said that loans will now be available for any business that spent between $20,000 and $1.5 million on its payroll in 2019. The prime minister said that 195,000 loans have been approved to date and that the approved loans already total $7.5 billion in credit.

Touching on many business owners' inability to cover commercial rent—which is an issue that actually falls under provincial jurisdiction—Trudeau said the government is going to speak with premiers about the new Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program for small businesses tonight. 

Trudeau said the program will help small businesses with rental payments that are due in May and June. 

More details on the program are expected to be released in the coming days. 

Trudeau also said he would talk to premiers about the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care homes, adding that discussions around topping up pay for personal support workers will take place. 

When asked if he's in talks with the premiers to re-open the economy on a region-by-region basis, Trudeau reiterated that Canada is still "many weeks" away from beginning to gradually and carefully ease physical distancing restrictions. 

Emphasizing that the country cannot fully return to normality until a vaccine or proper testing, tracing and tracking protocol is in place, Trudeau said all Canadian leaders understand that the current restrictions must be lifted in the right way and at the right moment. 

"It would be disastrous to open too early or too quickly and get into a situation like this one and to have to go back into quarantine like we are now," Trudeau said, adding that the government is working to ensure it will be able to trace, track and isolate any new cases of COVID-19 that could emerge after restrictions are lifted. 

"What's more important is the measures we'll have in place to be vigilant and respond to new cases," he told reporters.

"We need to respond quickly with massive testing and contact tracing. We can't reopen things until we're confident we have a plan in place to respond to future resurgences."

When asked to comment on U.S. President Donald Trump's remarks about reopening the Canada/U.S. border soon, Trudeau said that Trump was remarking on the unique friendship between the countries and their ability to treat one another differently.

Trudeau said he does not expect the border to reopen anytime soon. 

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