Resources to Help Canadians with the Financial Impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic
If your finances have been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, we have gathered key information below that may help you. We are updating this information regularly to keep it as up-to-date as possible. For more details on any relief measure mentioned below, please click on the appropriate link to learn more. We are just providing a general overview of financial relief measures that are available. You can also see an overview on this infographic.
The federal and provincial governments are all working to try and assist Canadians. Many helpful financial measures have been introduced and more may be announced in the weeks to come. Most of the federal government's new programs to help individuals can be found here, and below are some of the highlights.
Some of the relief measures include:
For Those Who Were Working
- The one-week waiting period to receive Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits has been waived for those who are unable to work because of illness, injury, quarantine, or the need to self-isolate. The normal requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI has been waived. EI benefits provide up to 15 weeks of partial income replacement.
- For those not covered by Employment Insurance, a new program called the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has been created.
- This program is intended to provide income support to workers - including the self-employed and contract workers - who had to stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support. It is also for workers who are no longer being paid who are quarantined, sick with COVID-19, caring for a family member sick with COVID-19, or caring for or supervising their children due to school closures.
- This program will provide $2,000 for 4 weeks. You can reapply up to five times to receive the benefit for a maximum of 24 weeks in total (you need to reapply every 4 weeks, though). If you are eligible for this benefit, you can receive funds retroactively as long as you apply no later than December 2, 2020.
- You can apply for this benefit online. (As an FYI, this money cannot be used as security for a payday loan, and it cannot be garnished by the government or garnished for support payments. Source)
- The government has announced that the CERB will be improved to allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB. It will also be extended to seasonal and regular workers who have exhausted their EI benefits but cannot go back to work or find a job due to COVID-19.
- Enhancements have been introduced to the Work Sharing Program to help workers and employers impacted by the downturn in business due to the virus.
- Some provincial governments are also offering income support to those who are not able to work due to the COVID-19 crisis.
In British Columbia, the new BC Emergency Benefit for Workers will provide a one-time, tax free $1,000 payment to BC residents whose ability to work has been affected by the outbreak. This benefit is for both EI eligible and non-eligible workers (such as the self-employed) who have been laid off, are sick or quarantined, are caring for sick family members, or are parents staying home to watch kids because schools and child care centres are closed. See all BC financial support measures
In Alberta, the provincial government is providing a one-time payment of $1,146 for working Albertans who must self-isolate and do not have another source of pay or compensation while they are in self-isolation. This payment is intended to bridge the gap until the federal emergency program payments begin.
The Saskatchewan government has announced a Self-Isolation Support Program that will provide $450 per week to residents who need to leave work to self-isolate and are not covered by recently announced federal programs.
In Quebec, the provincial government has introduced a Temporary Aid for Works Program. Through this program, any worker who is sick with COVID-19 or is self-quarantining and is not covered by any other program can receive $573 per week for two weeks. If health problems persist, this coverage can be extended for up to 28 days.
In New Brunswick, a one-time payment of $900 is being offered through the Red Cross to workers who have recently become unemployed due to COVID-19. These funds are intended to bridge the gap until federal benefits take effect.
In PEI, for anyone who has lost their primary source of income, a one-time payment of $750 is available. A temporary allowance of $200 per week is available for anyone who has experienced a significant drop in their working hours. PEI has income support programs available for the self-employed and workers with reduced hours until federal benefit programs begin as well. They also provide $100 grocery gift cards to anyone laid off.
In the Yukon, the government has a Paid Sick Leave Rebate program for employers. It will reimburse employers if they pay their employees to take sick days and self-isolate.
For more details on where to call for more information or ask a question about financial support from the government, click here.
You can also try out this calculator to see how much government income support you may be eligible for (Please Note: this is not a government calculator. It was created by an individual for estimation purposes only).
Planning For Emergency Reduced Income Webinar (Online Workshop)
Have you or your family been impacted financially by COVID-19? Are you worried that your income may be impacted in the near future? Worrying about our health along with our finances can be scary, stressful, and can create a lot of stress on us and our families. Join us for a practical webinar on how to plan for reduced income, deal with your bills as well as your creditors. You are not alone and we are here to help you!
You can watch the webinar video here, or you can register to attend a live version and ask any questions you may have.
Government Help (continued...)
GST Credit for Low to Modest Income Families
- The federal government provided a one-time special payment for low to modest income families through the Goods and Services Tax credit. These payments went out in April.
- For families with children, the government increased the Canada Child Benefit with a one-time $300 payment per child in May. Details here.
- The federal government has announced a one-time tax-free payment of $300 for seniors who qualify for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension. An additional one-time payment of $200 will be made to seniors who are eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). So for an individual who receives both the OAS and the GIS, they should receive an extra $500. The government has announced these payments will be delivered the week of July 6.
Additional Income Support from Provinces
- In BC, a number of measures have been introduced to help residents.
- The BC Emergency Benefit for Workers will provide a tax-free, one time $1,000 payment for residents whose ability to work has been affected due to COVID-19. Applications are being accepted online beginning May 1.
- 86% of residents will also receive extra money from the increased and expanded BC Climate Action Tax Credit in July 2020. Eligible families of four will receive up to $564 and eligible individuals will receive an enhanced payment of up to $218.
- BC residents receiving Income Assistance, Disability Assistance, Comfort Allowance, and the BC Senior's Supplement will also automatically receive an extra $300 in April, May, and June if they are not receiving EI or the CERB. See all BC financial supports
- In Saskatchewan, a temporary wage supplement is available for essential workers who earn less than $2,500 per month and who work at senior-care facilities, childcare facilities, group homes, and certain shelters. See more specific details here.
- In Ontario, a number of additional supports have been introduced.
- The Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors is doubling for six months starting April 2020.
- The government of Ontario is providing a one-time payment to families of $200 per child up to 12 years of age and $250 for those with special needs.
- The province's Emergency Assistance program has also been expanded. Ontario Works and ODSP recipients can access benefits of up to $100 for single individuals or $200 for families. More details and additional info.
- In New Brunswick, a $400 benefit is being offered for low income seniors.
- The government of New Brunswick is covering the child care fees for anyone who lost their income due to COVID-19. They are covering any "double fees" for the child care of essential workers. For patients with drug coverage under the province's public drug plan, they will only have to pay for the initial co-payment on a prescription being filled or refilled.
- In Nova Scotia, every individual and family member on income assistance will receive an additional $50. No application is necessary.
To find out more about what kinds of support are available in your province, more details, contact phone numbers, and resources are available here.
Students and New Graduates
- The Canada Emergency Student Benefit has been proposed for students and new graduates who don't qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This benefit would pay $1,250 per month for individuals or $1,750 per month for students with dependents or disabilities. This benefit would be offered from May to August 2020.
- The Canada Student Service Grant is intended to help students gain work experience and skills while helping their communities during the pandemic. For students who choose to do national service and serve their communities, the new Canada Student Service Grant supposed to provide up to $5,000 for their education in the fall.
- Other federal government announcements aimed at helping students can be seen here.
- The government is freezing Canada Student Loan payments and interest until September 30, 2020. So everyone currently paying a Canada Student Loan will not have to make any payments for six months and interest will not accrue over this period. You can find this announcement here.
- BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario have all announced a moratorium on provincial student loan payments for 6 months. No interest will accrue during this time and no payments are required.
- The CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) is open to granting relief from tax penalties and interest, providing flexible payment arrangements, and postponing collection activities on a case-by-case basis if someone has been impacted by COVID-19. They have also deferred the personal tax return filing date to June 1, 2020. However, if you expect to receive more from the GST credit or Canada Child Benefit for the 2020-2021 benefit year, delaying filing your tax return could delay your increased benefit payment. Some more details are available here.
- As of July 27, 2020, the payment of any income tax that an individual owes to the CRA between March 18, 2020 and August 31, 2020 can now be deferred until September 30, 2020 and no interest or penalties will accumulate on the amounts owed during this period of time. More details here.
City Taxes and Utilities
- A lot of Canadian cities have announced that they are allowing the payment of property taxes and utilities to be deferred without penalty. The length of deferral varies by city, but they seem to range from 30 days up to 6 months. Check with your city or municipality to see what they can do if you could use this kind of help. Be aware, though, that deferring a payment means you will have to pay it later along with your normal payments.
- BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories have all halted rental evictions for the time-being. BC, Alberta, and Manitoba have also frozen all rent increases at this time.
- In BC, for renters who cannot afford their rent, the government will pay $500 per month directly to their landlord if they are approved for this subsidy. More details
- In Prince Edward Island, a Temporary Rental Assistance Benefit of $1,000 per household is available to help cover the cost of rent for a three month period.
If you are having trouble keeping up with your rent, here are resources that may be of some help to you in your province.
Help from Banks & Credit Unions
- Canada's largest banks and credit unions have announced that they are offering financial relief to their customers who have been impacted by the economic consequences of COVID-19. This assistance now includes special programs or plans that banks and credit unions have extended to hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Benefits include up to 6 months of deferred payments on mortgages, installment loans, vehicle loans, lines of credit, and credit cards. Programs and deferral options vary by lender. So if you need something like this, check with your bank or credit union to see how they may be able to help you.
- If your mortgage is insured by CMHC, Genworth, or Canada Guaranty, they have additional relief programs that you may be able to use too. These programs aren't always well known. So you may have to help out your financial institution by contacting your mortgage insurer to find out about their programs and then share this information with the representative you're dealing with at your financial institution.
- The largest banks have announced that for their credit cards they are offering deferred payments for customers who request this help. They are also nearly cutting their interest rates in half to help these customers out too. If you are struggling to make your credit card payments because of COVID-19, contact your credit card company and see what they can do for you. If you've been struggling for a while, your best bet would probably be to speak with a Credit Counsellor and explore all your debt relief options.
Help from Communications Companies & Utilities
- Communications companies such as Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, Videotron, and Cogeco have announced measures to help their customers through this crisis. Announcements include extra leniency and flexibility for customers facing financial challenges along with some waiving internet overage, long distance, or roaming fees. Check with your provider to see what they are offering and how they can help you.
- Many utility companies are also announcing assistance plans or flexible repayment arrangements to help their customers who are experiencing financial difficulties. Check with your utility companies to see what kind of relief or assistance they are offering. If you live in BC and are eligible, BC Hydro is offering a 3 month credit. In Manitoba, Centra Gas, Manitoba Hydro, and Manitoba Public Insurance are not charging interest or penalties if someone is unable to pay at this time.
- In BC, ICBC customers on a monthly Autoplan payment plan, who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19, can defer their payment for up to 90 days with no penalty.
- Manitoba Public Insurance will be issuing rebate cheques in the mail by the end of May or early June. Cheques could average $140 to $160. Claims are down substantially during this time of self-isolation. So the public insurer is refunding some of peoples' premiums.
Help for Hospitality Workers
- A Canadian Hospitality Worker Relief Fund has been established to provide a one-time grant of $500 to eligible hospitality workers (for groceries, rent, bills, etc.) on a first-come, first served basis. Applications open on May 6.
Help for Businesses
- The federal government has announced measures to help businesses including a 75% wage subsidy (on the first $58,700 each employee earns) along with small loans up to $40,000 that are interest free for the first year. They have also made changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program.
- BDC (Business Development Canada) is providing support to entrepreneurs impacted by the coronavirus.
- Many provincial governments have announced relief measures to help businesses:
- A comprehensive list of all relief measures available to businesses nationally and provincially can be seen here. BDC also has a nice user-friendly chart showing support measures available to businesses.
- Facebook is giving out $100 million in cash grants and ad credits to eligible small businesses. Google is also offering $340 million in Google Ad credits to small to medium sized businesses with active accounts over the past year.
What You Can Do to Get Your Finances Through This Crisis
- See if there is any financial help available to you in the sections above.
- If you're struggling to pay your bills, contact your creditors as soon as possible. Whenever possible, reach out to all your creditors before you miss any payments. This includes credit cards, car loans, mortgages, lines of credit, etc. While it can be an uncomfortable phone call to make, they will appreciate you contacting them directly and making them aware of your situation. They may also be able to offer revised payment options during this time.
- Build and stick to an emergency budget. If you’re unable to collect a paycheque or if you're on EI, now is the time to pare down your expenses significantly. If you don’t have a budget, consider putting one together as soon as possible. We have a downloadable budget calculator and a printable budget template that you can use. The Government of Canada also has a good online budget planner.
- Get help from an accredited credit counselling organization such as ours. Give us a call at 1.888.527.8999, or email us at email@example.com. You can speak to a counsellor and find out how to improve your financial situation and build a budget that can help you get through this difficult situation.
Additional Resources to Help
How to Buy Groceries If Stores Don't Accept Cash & You Don't Have a Credit Card
If you don't have a credit card and are finding that stores won't accept cash right now, there are a couple of ways you can potentially work around this:
- Some financial institutions will allow you to link your bank account to Google Pay, Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay. If you do this, you can tap and pay using your smartphone.
- List of financial institutions in Canada that support Google Pay
- List of financial institutions in Canada that support Apple Pay
- List of financial institutions in Canada that support Samsung Pay
- You can get a prepaid Visa or MasterCard and load it up with your cash.
COVID-19 Scams to Watch Out For
As we’re all being continually bombarded with new information about the unfolding COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, fraudsters are taking advantage of the situation and are preying on people’s fears, uncertainty, and misinformation. The Government of Canada has published a list of scams and misleading information to watch out for. Check it out and let others know who might be considering one of these.
Here are the most common COVID-19 scams:
- Phone Scams – Someone pretending to be from your bank, health care provider, the CRA, or doctor’s office. Ask for verification from them before providing any information, and if you’re still unsure, hang up and call back the number listed on their website to see if they were attempting to reach you.
- Fake Charities – Someone pretending to be from the Red Cross or other reputable charity. Don’t provide bank or credit card details over the phone or through email. Instead, if you want to donate to a charity, do so online and through a charity you trust.
- Text Scams – A wide variety of fraudsters are pretending to represent legitimate companies via texts. Never click on links or reply to texts from unknown senders. Use a computer or your phone’s browser to look for the correct site.
- Pharmaceutical Scams – There is no such thing as a vaccine or self-administered testing kit for coronavirus or COVID-19 so do not be tempted by a fraudster promising to provide these items to you in person or online.
- Phishing Emails – Professional fraudsters are getting better at making their emails look legitimate. Never click on a password reset link or account verification email unless you initiated it. If someone from a government department is trying to get a hold of you with an urgent email, verify the information on their website, and don’t download any attachments.
If you are victim of any COVID-19 related scams, be sure to report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. This information could prevent someone else from being a victim of fraud and helps identify new types of COVID-19 related scams.
You can reach the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) at 1-888-495-8501 from 10:00AM to 4:45PM Eastern Time.