Nearly half of Canadian renters live paycheque to paycheque — and the novel coronavirus pandemic is bound to strain their finances more, according to a report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on Monday.

Nearly 3.4 million Canadian households that rent earn income via employment or self-employment, according to Statistics Canada data from 2016. The CCPA report found that 46 per cent — or 1.6 million households — of those Canadians have savings to last them one month or less. Beyond that, 24 per cent don’t have savings to get through even one week without pay.

“For those who have already lost their jobs, come March 31, what should they do? Should they use the little amount of savings that they’ve managed to put together in the last years or months and pay rent? Or should they keep that money and buy food?” asked Ricardo Tranjan, a political economist and senior researcher with the CCPA Ontario.

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Layoffs have hit several Canadian sectors in the past days, with more expected in the coming weeks and months. The tourism and hospitality industry, for example, is among the most impacted.

Air Transat announced Monday morning that it is temporarily laying off “about 70 per cent” of its workforce. Days before that, the union representing Air Canada‘s flight attendants said more than 5,000 members will be temporarily laid off as the airline severely limits its travel network.

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