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The federal government is extending the wage subsidy beyond its original June 6 expiry date and is creating a panel of industry leaders to provide advice on restarting the Canadian economy after nearly two months of heavy restrictions due to COVID-19.

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy gives employers funds to cover 75 per cent of wage costs up to a maximum benefit of $847 a week per employee.

It is currently available for up to 12 weeks, covering the period between March 15 to June 6.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during his daily news conference Friday that this program will be extended, with further details to come next week.

The Prime Minister did not extend a similar program called the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides $500 a week for 16 weeks for people who have lost nearly all of their income because of COVID-19. That program is scheduled to expire in early October.

Mr. Trudeau expressed hope that as more businesses start to reopen, workers who are collecting the CERB will be able to return to their jobs with support from the wage subsidy.

“We recognize that as the economy starts to reopen, people will be getting back to work, leaving the emergency response benefit and perhaps going on to the wage subsidy as employers bring people back on and get them back to work as our economy picks up over the coming weeks and months,” he said.

“That’s why we will constantly be adjusting to make sure Canadians are getting the support they need as we look to carefully and gradually restarting our economy.”

The government announced the creation of a new Industry Strategy Council that will be led Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and chaired by Monique Leroux, a former president and CEO of Desjardins Group who is currently a member of various corporate boards. Mr. Trudeau said the council will focus on how the pandemic is affecting specific sectors and how the federal government can assist them.

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said extending the wage subsidy was the top recommendation of his organization.

“I give credit to the government for listening carefully to the concerns of small businesses who were worried that this needed support would run out before many are even able to reopen their doors,” he said in a statement. “Extending the program beyond June 6 will allow more firms to rehire staff as they reopen but face very thin revenues in the early months.”

For weeks, Mr. Trudeau has said the government is planning further announcements aimed at specific sectors such as energy, aviation and tourism as well as measures to support seniors.

On Friday, he repeated that further announcements are coming, but declined to provide a timeline. He also said support for specific sectors will focus on workers.

“We will, over the coming days, start looking at specific sectoral supports for various industries that have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19,” he said. “But even then, our focus will be on the workers, on the supply chains that involve many, many small businesses across the country for many of these industries, and not on the corporate well-being of an industry or of a sector.”

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