Fifteen COVID-relief programs for farmers and their employees

A KAP seminar listed and explained the many programs designed to help farmers weather the effects of the pandemic

If expenses are adding up and you’re looking for financial support, one of these programs could help your situation.

Many federal and provincial programs exist to help producers pay employee wages or recoup lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the speed those have rolled out and evolved, farmers may not know which is best for them or how to apply.

“It can be a little overwhelming to keep track of that information and to know what’s what,” said Jennifer Wright, senior HR advisor with the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council in a June 16 webinar hosted by KAP.

The Webinar attempted to unravel some of those options. Wright, with Stephanie Cruikshanks from Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development, listed and explained the options available to farmers as employers and as individuals.

They noted that these programs continue to evolve, and producers should refer to the associated websites for up-to-date information.

Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (link)

This is a wage subsidy for employers for 75 per cent of employees wages, up to $847 per week, for 24 weeks. This is retroactive from March 15 to August 29. Wright noted that this is not a 75 per cent subsidy regardless of total wage, only up to $847 per week.

Eligible employers include individuals, taxable corporations, non-profits and agricultural organizations according to the government of Canada’s website. They must be able to demonstrate an eligible reduction of revenue, and have had a CRA payroll account on March 15, 2020.

Temporary 10 per cent wage subsidy (link)

Eligible employers can reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency for 3 months. Eligible employers include individuals, partnerships, non-profits and Canadian-controlled private corporations. They must have had an existing business number and payroll program account with the CRA on March 18, and pay salary, wages bonuses or other remuneration to an eligible employee.

There is no application for the subsidy. According to the government of Canada’s website, “Once you have calculated your subsidy, you can reduce your current payroll remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that you send to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy.”

Canada Emergency Business Account (link)

This is an interest-free loan for small businesses and not-for-profits up to $40,000 to cover operating costs when revenues are reduced because of COVID-19.

Requirements include having been in operation as of March 1, have a federal tax registration, and to have had a total employment income paid in 2019 was between $20,000 and $1.5 million. Employers must apply through banks or credit unions.

Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (link)

Regional Relief and Recovery Fund is a nearly $1 billion fund from the federal government to support regional economies, businesses, organizations and communities, as well as to support the national network of Community Futures Development Corporations.

The fund is intended to mitigate financial pressures on businesses and organizations, including paying employees.

Application is through Western Economic Diversification Canada.

Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program (link)

This is a one-time program providing farmers, fish harvesters, food producers and processors $1,500 per temporary foreign worker (TFW) employed to help cover the costs of the mandatory 14-day isolation period imposed on the workers when they arrive in Canada.

This might include covering wages and benefits (employees must be paid during isolation), off-site accommodations, transportation to accommodations, and food.

Application is online.

Emergency Processing Fund (link)

This is a one-time federal investment of up to $77.5 million to help food producers implement and adapt to health protocols related to COVID-19, and to access more personal protective equipment (PPE).

Farm Credit Canada COVID-19 support program (link)

FCC has offered deferrals of principal and interest payments, and expanded their loan offerings according to its website. FCC is not giving grants or interest-free loans.

AgriRecovery Initiative (link)

On May 5, the federal government committed to $125 million in AgriRecovery funds in light of market disruptions from COVID-19. On May 29, Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen confirmed that Manitoba had signed on for beef set aside funds through the program, the Manitoba Co-operator reported on June 1.

To date no further details have been released.

The disaster relief framework is typically triggered by a province, with the province then shouldering 40 per cent of the resulting aid package.

Surplus Food Rescue Program (link)

This is a program to manage and redirect existing surpluses of food to organizations addressing food insecurity according Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s website. It will allow organizations to bid on “significant volumes” of surplus products at the cost of production or less, processing where necessary, and distributing to food serving agencies.

Canadian Emergency Response benefit (link)

This program provides a taxable benefit of $2,000 every four weeks for up to 24 weeks for workers who stopped working due to COVID-19, have exhausted employment insurance benefits, or are eligible for employment insurance or sickness benefits.

Application is through the Canada Revenue Agency or Service Canada.

Canadian Emergency Student Benefit (link)

This program provides financial support to post-secondary students and recent post-secondary or high school graduates who are unable to find work due to COVID-19. From May to August, it pays $1,250 for every four weeks, or $2,000 every four weeks if the student has dependants or a disability.

Students can apply online or by phone.

Student Work Placement Program (link)

This program provides $80 million to support post-secondary students across Canada to get paid work experience in their field of study.

Manitoba Summer Jobs Recovery Program (link)

This program promotes hiring high school and post-secondary students who have been affected by COVID-19. Employers can receive reimbursement of $7 per hour to a maximum of $5,000 per student between May 1 and Sept. 4, 2020, and may hire up to five students.

Students hired must not displace any existing employees. Payments will be made in a lump sum at the end of the summer.

Student Jobs MB App (link)

This is a free app that allows businesses and non-profits to post jobs and see a list of top applicants for that job.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Youth Employment and Skills Program (link)

This program supports employers who hire youth for agricultural jobs. It provides a subsidy of 50 per cent of wages to a maximum of $14,000, and up to $5,000 to reimburse costs if the employee must relocate for the position.

Eligible employers are ag-related organizations like farmers, food processors, and ag-related non-government organizations that will give agriculture career-related work experience to workers 30 years or younger.

The agricultural work must be completed by March 31, 2021.

“Some of these employment programs, particularly, will be available ongoing,” said Cruikshanks. “One of the things we notice in agriculture is the difficulty in recruiting particularly young people into our industry, and so these programs, particularly focused on youth and people with skills that aren’t related to agriculture are an excellent way to bring new people in without the extreme financial risk of you being on the hook for the entire wage.”

She suggested that if farmers can’t use the youth employment programs now, they should consider doing so in the future as a larger uptake from the farm community ensures the programs’ availability into the future.

About the author


Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.



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