Auto Service World
News   April 2, 2020   by Allan Janssen

AIA offers details on emergency wage subsidy program

The automotive Industries Association of Canada is still sorting through the newly-released details of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, but it promises to keep members apprised and help with claims-related questions.

In a 40-minute web update yesterday, AIA president J.F. Champagne said the association is closely monitoring the government’s response, and is trying to ensure that its members know how to take advantage of funds being made available to struggling businesses.

“The hard reality is that we are seeing a substantial drop in the demand for automotive services – in many cases above 50% – and as a result we’ve seen many businesses take the decision to close,” he said. “But there is help on the way from the federal government.”

Companies that can show at least a 30 per cent drop in revenues due to COVID-19 compared to the same month last year – or a more recent month for businesses that are less than a year old – will receive 75% of the first $58,700 of each employee’s salary, capped at $847 per week per employee. Applications, which will have to be made each month, will be available through the Canada Revenue Agency web portal. Officials said it will take between three and six weeks for cheques to start flowing.

Companies that receive the wage subsidy will be expected do whatever they can to pay the remaining 25 per cent of their employees’ wages. Workers who receive the wage subsidy can’t also receive a $2,000-a-month emergency benefit cheque, which requires recipient to not be earning any money at all.

The new subsidy and the previously announced Emergency Response Benefit, along with direct financial aid will cost taxpayers more than $105 billion. On top of that is $85 billion in tax deferrals for individuals and businesses, and $65 billion in loans.

In addition to assisting its members with subsidy-related questions, Champagne said AIA is continuing to focus on making sure all levels of government understand the importance of the automotive repair and service industry during the ongoing crisis.

“We are playing an important role in ensuring that essential services continue to be able to operate,” he said. “Our industry is helping people in need, especially first responders, police, nurses, doctors, who have to go from their houses to their places of work because they are on the front line in this fight. We are right behind them to help them out.”

AIA is also seeking harmonization between all the provinces on the definition of essential services, how the workplace will be monitored and how the enforcement will be carried out.

Champagne said he has heard of enforcement authorities, especially in Quebec, coming to visit parts distribution centres and repair shops to make sure they are in compliance with the law.

“These kinds of activities will surely continue,” he said, as well as new measures to restrict the movement of people between provinces where it is not essential. “We’re going to see more of these measures, with the goal of limiting the spread of the Covid-19 virus.”

AIA has been working with Summa Strategies Canada to make its case to Ottawa. According to Joanne Dobson, a senior advisor with Summa Strategies, AIA is well placed to speak with government officials because they are not newcomers to lobbying.

“We’re not entering government offices for the first time,” she pointed out.

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