• Extended relief measures for members and clients
  • Timely support for businesses
  • Collaboration with ÉTS to advance circular economy
  • Continued support for youth and academic perseverance

Montreal, September 3, 2020 -- The economy has started to recover in several Quebec regions, but it remains fragile. A new Desjardins study indicates that economic activity is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels before mid-2022. And even then, the recovery will depend on the scale of the second wave of COVID-19.

Desjardins has responded with an action plan to assist its individual and business members during this critical period. The plan includes a wide range of initiatives designed to meet the needs expressed by its members, such as extended relief measures and timely support to businesses experiencing hardship due to the pandemic.

"Desjardins continually seeks feedback from members and clients. As soon as the pandemic struck, we took action to provide assistance and reassure members and clients that we're committed to doing everything we can to help them get through these challenging times and manage their finances. Desjardins intends to continue playing an active role in the socio-economic recovery of our communities," said Guy Cormier, President and CEO of Desjardins Group.

The initiatives outlined in the action plan build on those announced in April, such as the GoodSpark Fund, which will provide $150 million in assistance between now and 2024 to projects expected to drive socio-economic recovery across Quebec and Ontario.

Not all regions recovering at the same pace

Business activity started picking up as soon as lockdown measures began to ease in May. But it will take time for the labour market to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, according to a new economic study released by Desjardins. The speed and strength of the recovery will vary from one region to another.

The Bas-Saint-Laurent, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine regions will be slower to regain lost ground compared to other regions, as many of their key industries will likely continue to experience challenges. However, fast-rising commodity prices are an encouraging sign. The Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord and Nord-du-Québec regions should enjoy a faster recovery thanks to mining activity.

Even though things are looking up, a number of industries are still struggling, including hospitality (hotels and restaurants), retail and entertainment, due in large part to the challenges of applying social distancing measures.

The study is available here (in French only): link

Extended relief measures available to members and clients

Recognizing that many of its members and clients are still in a precarious position, Desjardins is extending the availability of its relief measures. Members and clients experiencing hardship can request to defer payments on Desjardins financing products, pay lower interest on Desjardins credit cards, and receive personalized assistance to get their finances back on track.

Timely support for businesses

A Desjardins forum of more than 4,000 Quebec companies revealed that businesses need help right now. This is especially true for smaller enterprises. More than a quarter of Desjardins business members reported that COVID‑19 has had a very significant impact on their operations.

In response to this unprecedented situation, Desjardins has implemented measures to address the needs expressed by Quebec businesses to help keep them afloat.

For example, the hardest-hit companies whose short-term survival is at risk can obtain a two-year rate lock on loans at the lowest pre-pandemic rate.

Desjardins Business members and clients can also take advantage of substantial savings on virtual healthcare services, offered in partnership with Medisys and Optima Global Health. Businesses could offer their employees a telemedicine program and access to a wide range of health professionals.

The complete list of support measures for businesses is available here : link

Collaborating with ÉTS to drive research and accelerate the transition to a circular economy

One of the things the pandemic has highlighted is the importance of buying local and reducing waste. This prompted Desjardins to partner with École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The collaboration will give businesses more opportunities to innovate and increase their productivity by optimizing resource use, all while cutting greenhouse gas emissions and giving consumers access to a wider range of sustainable products.

By combining science and business, this joint initiative aims to help produce research that can be quickly applied to local business models and drive regional socio-economic development. Supporting regional economies in Quebec and across Canada is a shared priority for both Desjardins and ÉTS.

"As we rebuild the economy, our focus should be on advancing the circular economy to help spark innovation and make Quebec's economic systems more productive, more resilient and better developed at the local level, in addition to addressing the ecological and climate crisis. Pandemic-related challenges are forcing businesses to innovate, and we believe a circular economy is part of the solution. ÉTS is very pleased to be collaborating with Desjardins to build an ecosystem of sector-specific pilot projects in this field," said François Gagnon, Director General of ÉTS.

With a budget of more than $2 million over 5 years for this project, Desjardins and ÉTS aim to develop an ecosystem of dynamic laboratories for several key economic sectors.

$100,000 for solutions to social issues raised by organizations and businesses

Once again this year, Desjardins will be running the Cooperathon, one of the largest open innovation competitions in North and South America. Now in its fifth edition, the competition will be 100% online and open to participants from coast to coast over the next few weeks. Desjardins is officially announcing the first challenge today: How can seniors and youth share knowledge and experiences on an ongoing basis to mutually help each other? A total of $100,000 in prizes will be awarded to participants. For more information, go to www.cooperathon.ca.

Desjardins continues to support youth and encourages academic perseverance

This year, hundreds of thousands of students are going back to school in unprecedented conditions. Desjardins is taking action with partners such as Academos, Kids Help Phone and Alloprof to help students get the year off to a good start and promote academic perseverance.

This fall, the Desjardins Foundation will hand out 1,100 scholarships totalling $1.8 million to students in trade, college or university programs. In addition, the Desjardins Foundation Prizes will be back for a fifth year to provide financial assistance to school and community workers who run inspiring projects to motivate kindergarten, elementary and high school students. Between now and October 31, every time a home or auto insurance policy is updated online or a quote for car or renter's insurance is requested online, Desjardins will donate $5 to the Desjardins Foundation. These funds will be used to support things like additional projects selected for a Desjardins Foundation Prize.

Desjardins is reopening most of its student service centres, where students can get personalized assistance on money management, information about financial products or budgeting tips from Desjardins reps on site.

The school caisse program is getting a fresh new look and the www.schoolcaisse.com website is coming out with new activities and a more user-friendly section for teachers. It includes fun games teachers can play with students to teach them about money management.

The complete list of measures outlined in the Desjardins action plan is available here : link

For journalists only: Public Relations, Desjardins Group
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