Bell Media admitted on Wednesday to having received nearly $123 million from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), a program meant to help businesses retain employees during the pandemic, before laying off over 200 employees.
Bell notified 210 employees in the Toronto area that they are being laid off on Tuesday. Approximately half of the layoffs were of union employees who worked in the company's newsroom, while the other half were mostly constituted of sales staff and administrators.
They also suggested that there may be more layoffs to come, although they also noted that some of the layoffs are temporary.
After it was noticed that Bell had benefited from the CEWS, a journalist from CTV News inquired into how much the company received from the program.
"Bell qualified for $122.85 million in CEWS funding in 2020, which was used only for its intended purpose – ensuring continued employment for workers in business segments extraordinarily impacted by COVID-19," Bell responded. "This included Bell Media, which faced an unprecedented decline in advertising and other revenue across its platforms."
Bell said that despite taking multiple measures to safeguard the retainment of their employees, job loss was "unavoidable." They also noted that they employ over 50,000 employees, which apparently is supposed to alleviate the layoffs suffered by the 210 affected Canadians.
The CEWS program, which was implemented last year to help businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic retain employees, has come under fire for helping businesses that, in the eyes of many, don't deserve such help.
It was revealed just last month that a number of companies owned by the government of China had been among the recipients of CEWS benefits.
The federal government spent a total of $85.6 billion on the program in the fiscal year 2020-2021, making it the most expensive of Canada's coronavirus relief programs.
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