The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is calling on the federal government to increase its wage subsidy program in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In an interview with BNN Bloomberg, CFIB president and Chief Executive Officer Dan Kelly said Canada should consider following Europe’s lead in offering to pay a larger portion of employee salaries to help encourage businesses to keep workers on their payrolls.

As part of the feds' $107-billion virus aid program, Ottawa offered small businesses a temporary 10 per cent wage subsidy in a bid to avert layoffs. The federal government further pledged to pay up to $2,000 a month to workers who lose their job or income in the face of the virus fallout.

“It is really low, and today Ireland has been the latest European country to move," Kelly said. "They’re now at a 70 per cent income replacement benefit. Of course, the U.K. last week [offered] at 80 per cent, Denmark at 75 [per cent], that I think feels a lot better. And, certainly the reaction we’ve had from small business owners is that if the government can replace around 75 per cent or more of the employees' wages, they have a fighting chance of hanging on to some, [but] not all of their workers.”

“That’s going to be a huge stress reliever for the worker who isn’t going to be facing unemployment for a long time.”

Kelly said Ottawa can’t act soon enough to support workers, and called for an acceleration of the measures.

“Right now, the government should be waiving all of those rules, allowing employers to issue this without the verification step," he said. "Let’s do the verification after the emergency is over so employees can be paid.”

“They’re going to start the process in the beginning of April, and it will be paid out on a monthly basis – I don’t know too many workers that can go a month withoutout a paycheque.”