Distribution of Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) in Ontario

Date: December 14, 2021

Author: Jason Robinson & Sampoorna Bhattacharya - Rural Data Analysts at ROI

Rural Ontario Institute’s latest Focus on Rural Ontario factsheet analyzes Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) statistics in rural Ontario. This factsheet discusses the distribution of CEWS among all provinces and territories, and analyzes use by rural and urban businesses in Ontario.

CEWS was a Canadian funding program that supported businesses and organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic in re-hiring and retaining employees. Between March 15, 2020 and October 24, 2020, the Canadian government provided up to 75% of the subsidy resulting in a maximum of $847 per week per employee, depending on the loss of revenue for an eligible business applying for CEWS. After October 24th, 2020, the subsidy provision was reduced to 55%, or a maximum of $595 per week per employee.

Factsheet Highlights


Rural businesses in Ontario received 19% of total CEWS provided to rural businesses in Canada between March 15, 2020 – January 16, 2021. Of the total CEWS provided to Ontario, rural businesses in Ontario received 5%; $1.27 billion, which supported an average of 78,931 employees per claim term. Most Ontario businesses supported by CEWS were in the manufacturing, construction, accommodation and food-service sectors.

The claim period of July 5 – August 1, 2020 saw the highest number of supported employees through CEWS, while September 27to October 24, 2020 saw the lowest.

Overall, Ontario received 40% of the National total of CEWS distributed, which was the largest share among all provinces and territories. The program supported an average of 78,931 employees and 7,040 businesses per claim period in rural Ontario. There is a substantial difference with urban areas in Ontario, which received 19 times more subsidies than rural areas amounting to 1.4 million employees and 98,972 businesses per claim period in urban areas.

The 2016 population Census, reported in Business conditions in rural Ontario, 3rd quarter of 2020, showed that 10% of Ontario’s population resided in “rural and small-town areas” (RST) One would expect the “population of businesses” might be skewed towards larger centres and it may be possible that RST area comprise 10% of the population but only 5% to 6% of the businesses. For most provinces, the RST population share is (slightly) larger than the share of “rural” businesses". This is consistent with the 5% CEWS share in rural businesses in Ontario observed in the CEWS factsheet

For more information on COVID-19’s impacts in rural Ontario, check out ROI’s special issues of Focus On Rural Ontario in the Knowledge Centre.