Federal government's extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

·2 min read

There was a little good news for CFL teams in the federal government's spring budget Monday.

Ottawa extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program until Sept. 25. It had been scheduled to expire in June.

The CFL cancelled its plans to stage an abbreviated 2020 season last August due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision came after the league was unable to secure an interest-free $30 million loan from the federal government.

Despite not playing last year, the CFL was projected to receive more than $10 million in wage subsidy from Ottawa between March and December 2020. That figure would've surpassed $15 million had an abbreviated season been played.

It's unclear, though, what — if any — subsidies the league has received so far in 2021.

Shortly after the CFL shelved its plans for the '20 season, the CFL Players' Association told its members that those under contract to league teams would be eligible for wage subsidy from July through December.

The union added the benefits could go beyond that if CEWS was extended, which it was to June 2021.

Last year, the CFL approached Ottawa on multiple occasions for financial assistance it maintained was essential in order to stage an abbreviated season. CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie had said the league lost around $20 million in 2019 and a source familiar with the situation told The Canadian Press that not playing last year cost the CFL between $60 and $80 million.

In its budget Monday, Ottawa said the subsidy rate would gradually decrease starting July 4. It will be replaced eventually with a new Canada Recovery Hiring Program, which is proposed to span from June to November.

Last November, the CFL unveiled its plans to stage a complete 18-game season in 2021 that was supposed to kick off June 10. However, with much of Canada currently dealing with a third wave of the novel coronavirus, the league is expected this week to push back the start of the '21 campaign.

Other factors are the CFL's return-to-play protocols still remaining before the various provincial governments as well as the slow vaccination programs nationally.

When the CFL unveiled its '21 schedule, Ambrosie left the door open to the league possibly altering those plans.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press