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The COVID-19 economic emergency: Governments must implement temporary wage subsidies to support businesses and workers

Joint statement from the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec and the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

Montréal, March 25, 2020 ‒ Over the past two weeks, our daily lives have been completely upended as we have scaled down our social and economic activities to an extraordinary degree.

At first, large gatherings were banned, and employees were asked to telework from home if possible. Classes were suspended in educational institutions, and many places of business shuttered their doors. Then, we closed the borders.

Yesterday, in a hard blow, all non-essential economic activities and services were ordered to shut down. This interruption is a necessary response to this indisputable health emergency. However, as we start to take full stock of this emergency, we can see a vast economic emergency unfolding as well.

Businesses in Montréal and all of Quebec’s regions are experiencing severe impacts due to the restrictions in force. Almost all SMEs are in a critical situation. If nothing is done, they will have no choice but to massively lay off staff. Companies of all sizes must make extremely quick decisions that will have severe impacts.

Over the past ten days, Canada has received one million employment insurance claims. This is likely just the beginning, as new claims are expected by the hundreds of thousands.

This pace is unsustainable and will result in inevitable processing delays. We must change our approach now to quickly provide temporary benefits to affected workers.

We must follow the example of several European states that have created wage subsidy programs for companies that are trying to keep their employees. France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and the Netherlands all provide wage subsidies based on different formulas and arrangements.

We too must implement this practice. The advantage of subsidies is that they maintain the employee-employer relationship, which eliminates administrative processing for layoffs and employment insurance registrations. As a very strategic measure, this program would also gradually help people return to work when the situation allows.

The Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec and the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal are asking our governments to evaluate this approach and work quickly to implement the same kinds of subsidies here.

The historic crisis we are experiencing is unprecedented. It requires an immediate response that is equally unprecedented.

Charles Milliard
President and CEO
Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec

Michel Leblanc
President and CEO
Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

About the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM)
With a network of over 8,000 members, the CCMM is active on two fronts: being the voice of the Montréal business community and delivering specialized services to businesses and their representatives. With its finger on the pulse of current events, it acts on issues that are decisive for the prosperity of the city’s businesses. With the support of the Acclr experts, the CCMM’s goal is to accelerate the creation and growth of businesses of all sizes, at home and around the world.

About the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ)
With a vast network of 132 chambers of commerce and 1100 member businesses in Québec, the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ) represents more than 50,000 businesses from all economic sectors and all regions of the province. As the most important network of business leaders and businesses in Québec, the FCCQ is a staunch defender of its members’ interests in public affairs issues, fostering an innovative and competitive business environment.

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Julie Serero
Advisor, Media Relations
Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal
Tel.: 514-871-4000, ext. 4042

Félix Rhéaume
Senior Director, Communications and External Relations
Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec
Tel: 514-912-2639

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