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Wage subsidies and crisis lines in crisis ; In The News for April 27

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 27 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

Some key developments are coming this week in the country’s relentless struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting today businesses can apply for the federal government’s $73 billion wage subsidy program.

Companies that qualify will get a subsidy worth 75 per cent of each employee’s wages, up to $847 per week, retroactive from March 15 to June 6.  And for those organizations that can, the government is asking employers to fill in the remaining quarter.

First payments are expected to arrive by the end of next week.

Later this week, Quebec and Ontario, which account for the vast majority of Canada’s COVID-19 cases, are expected to unveil frameworks for reopening their locked down economies.

Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have already announced tentative timelines for a return to some semblance of normality.

Despite evidence of some flattening COVID-19 curves, both politicians and public health officials are stressing the need for a cautious, go slow approach to guard against a surge of second wave infections.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also said that none of the recovery plans hinge on people being immune to catching COVID-19 twice.

In other Canadian news …

OTTAWA  — Despite a surge in demand due to COVID-19, many distress centres across Canada are dangerously close to folding thanks to major declines in both volunteers and revenue.

Stephanie MacKendrick, CEO of Crisis Services Canada, which runs the only national suicide-specific helpline in Canada, says community distress centres across the country have seen 30 to 50 per cent more crisis calls since the pandemic began.

Yet they have also seen fewer volunteers, with some reporting a loss of up to 90 per cent.

While centres have started turning to paid staff to make up the difference, their cash flows have also been hit hard as their main sources of revenue — training and workshops — have dried up overnight due to the pandemic.

MacKendrick calls this the “perfect storm” for these centres, with many now struggling to stay afloat.

MacKendrick says that is why her organization has asked Ottawa to provide $15 million in emergency funding to keep distress centres from having to close their doors.

Also this …

These are trying times for Canada, but we’re all in this together and hope is on the horizon.

Such was the message of last night’s “Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble,” a star-studded show of support and solidarity for those on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 crisis.

A who’s who of Canadian artists, athletes, authors, activists and even astronauts appeared from their respective locations during the 90-minute broadcast benefit.

Many English and French Canadian broadcasters aired the show on dozens of T-V, streaming and radio platforms.

The event was centred around a 150-million dollar fundraising campaign for Food Banks Canada.

Artists who appeared included singers Celine Dion, Michael Buble, and Anne Murray, who addressed her home province of Nova Scotia, which is reeling from a recent shooting rampage.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — After two months of frantic response to the coronavirus, the White House is planning to shift President Donald Trump’s public focus to the burgeoning efforts aimed at easing the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.

Days after he publicly mused that scientists should explore the injection of toxic disinfectants as a potential virus cure, Trump has now rejected the utility of his daily task force briefings, where he has time and again clashed with scientific experts. Trump’s aides are aiming to move the president onto more familiar — and safer, they hope — ground: talking up the economy, in tighter controlled settings.

It’s a political imperative as allies have seen an erosion in support for the president. What had been his greatest asset in the re-election campaign, his ability to blanket news headlines with freewheeling performances, has become a daily liability. At the same time, new Republican Party polling shows Trump’s path to a second term depends on the public’s perception of how quickly the economy rebounds from the state-by-state shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the virus.

Some states have started to ease closure orders, and Trump is expected to begin to highlight his administration’s work in helping businesses and employees.

COVID-19 around the world …

— Some countries and U.S. states are starting to ease COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and focus on fixing their battered economies.

In Spain, the streets echoed again with joyful cries as the nation let children go outside for the first time in six weeks.

In Italy, the premier laid out a long-awaited timetable for getting back to normal, announcing that factories, construction sites and wholesale supply businesses can resume activity as soon as they put safety measures in place.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is going back to work today at 10 Downing St. after being hospitalized with the coronavirus.

Johnson spent a number of days in intensive care and after he got out thanked  health-care workers for saving his life.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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