THUNDER BAY — Businesses who have depended on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program to help with their payroll can now look to expanding their staff and training by transitioning to the new Canada Recovery Hiring Program.
“We are really pleased to see this,” says Charla Robinson, president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Applications opened this week for the new program and Robinson says the Chamber has been hearing inquiries about it from local businesses. Although it’s in its early stages, the system is set up for businesses to choose between one or the other to best suit their current staffing situation.
“This is meant as a transition to allow those businesses to bring back staff, maybe add more hours to shifts as they are starting to ramp up their operations again with the reopenings,” she said. “People are getting out and about more and they are able to return to a bit more of a normal level of labour force. . . . We are really pleased to see this.”
The original wage subsidy is based around the business’ losses and also contains rules about previous re-hireable employees. The new recovery program enables the business to hire new people.
“It’s allowing that transition while providing some subsidy support to get the people hired and get them trained while you are still trying to get back on your feet,” says Robinson. “I’m sure there will be lots of local businesses taking advantage of this as they transition from the wage subsidy to this new program to get their staff back to work.”
Meanwhile, the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) has been subsidizing those employees who lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon provincial second- and third-phase reopenings, some employees feel better protected collecting CRB than heading back to part-time work.
Robinson surmised that CRB has added to an already problematic labour shortage before COVID-19 hit.
“This is just an added challenge,” she said. “People are going to do what they need to do for their families. If you can get CRB at $500 a week, versus getting called into work for maybe 10 or 12 hours a week, what are you going to choose? You still have to pay your mortgage or rent and you still have to put food on the table and CRB is guaranteed, so it does put people in a bit of a tricky situation around getting back to work versus needing to support their family if they are not able to get back to a full-time role.”
People need to be aware that the CRB program works similarly to the unemployment insurance program.
“If you started in March of 2020, you are probably running out of weeks,” said Robinson.
“In order to be on CRB, you are not supposed to have a job option for you. It’s going to be a bit of a bumpy ride as we transition from folks who are on CRB but, perhaps their employers would like to bring them back to work but can’t bring them back full time — so there’s going to be a bumpy ride effect as we try to transition between the CRB back to business and we will be following that closely.”
Robinson says there are many who are still struggling to find work. There may now be options for career transitions for people that want to move to something else.
“This may be an opportunity for them to look at other career options and there’s numerous training programs available to help with career transition,” she said. “It will be a real time of flux over the next few months for businesses in trying to bring their employees back and trying to hire new workers and getting them trained.”
Robinson also noted that the new recovery hiring program is not “front-loaded” and employers will get the money after they have paid the payroll, and file for reimbursement.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal