COVID-19 has swept across the country, leaving behind a trail of economic destruction. In May, the unemployment rate hit a record high of 13.7%. As of August 23, over 8.5 million Canadians have applied for COVID-19 emergency benefits.
Although significant job gains were made in recent months, there are still 1.3 million fewer jobs than there were in February. Canada’s economy added 419,000 jobs in July, however, only 73,000 were full-time positions. Many are struggling to make ends meet with part-time gigs as Statistics Canada found more than half of the people receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit in July were still working.
If you’ve been furloughed, laid off, or working reduced hours, rest assured that help is available. The federal and provincial governments are working hard to give you the assistance you need during these difficult times. New benefits and relief initiatives are continually being announced – great news if you’re worried about paying the bills. However, it can be confusing sifting through this influx of information. To make things easier, we’ve put together a comprehensive list detailing all the types of COVID-19 financial support available.
COVID-19 federal financial relief for individuals
The federal government has launched the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, an aid package worth $107 billion. The comprehensive plan offers support for unemployed workers, people who are sick or quarantined, as well as families, seniors, and students.
Highlights of the plan include:
- Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): The CERB has been extended from 24 weeks to 28 weeks. You can now receive $2,000 every four weeks for a maximum of seven eligibility periods.
Replacing the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit, the CERB is a taxable benefit for eligible workers who have stopped working or have had their hours cut due to the pandemic. You can apply for the CERB online through Service Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Make sure you apply on one portal only, not both. Payments are made through direct deposit or by cheque and are sent within ten days of applying.
- live in Canada and are at least 15 years old
- have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted your Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020
- had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of your application
- have not quit your job voluntarily
- Setting a minimum unemployment rate of 13.1% across Canada for the EI program.
- Allowing Canadians with at least 120 hours of insurable work to qualify for benefits by providing a temporary, one-time credit of 300 insurable hours for those claiming EI regular benefits. Individuals claiming EI special benefits (maternity, parental, sickness, compassionate care, and family caregiver) will receive a credit of 480 insurable hours.
- Freezing EI premium rates for two years so workers and businesses don’t need to worry about payroll deductions or increased costs.
- Implementing temporary measures to support self-employed fish harvesters who rely on EI fishing benefits during the off-season. Workers can now use fishing earnings from their current claim or fishing earnings from the same season last year, whichever is higher.
- Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB): Self-employed individuals can obtain $400 per week for up to 26 weeks. The CRB follows similar eligibility requirements as the CERB, but allows workers to earn more self-employment income while collecting the benefit. Recipients will need to repay $0.50 of the benefit for every dollar earned over $38,000.
- Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB): Workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19 can get $500 per week for up to two weeks.
- Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB): Canadians who can’t work because they must care for children or family members may receive $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household. Take a look at the full eligibility requirements here.
- Temporary wage top-up for low-income essential workers: The federal government has pledged $3 billion to increase the wages of low-income essential workers. Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for determining which workers will benefit from this support and how much they will receive.
- Increased Child Care Benefit (CCB): An extra $300 per child has been given through the Canada Child Benefit for 2019 and 2020. The one-time increase was part of the regular May 2020 payment.
- Special Goods and Services Tax credit payment: Low-income families should have automatically received a special one-time payment through the Goods and Services Tax credit this past May. The additional amount is approximately $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples.
- Extended tax filing and payment dates: Individual tax returns were due on June 1. If you owe income tax, the payment deadline has been pushed to September 30, 2020 with no penalties or interest charged. Try to file your taxes as early as possible to prevent your benefits and credits from being disrupted.
- Indigenous Community Support Fund: $380 million was allocated to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities. The government has also pledged $285.1 million to fund community-led responses to the pandemic, $270 million to supplement the On-Reserve Income Assistance Program, and an additional $25 million to Nutrition North Canada so families can continue to access nutritious food and personal hygiene products. Indigenous students can benefit from an extra $75.2 million in distinctions-based support as well.
- Mortgage payment deferrals: Canada’s largest banks are offering deferred mortgage payments for up to six months. This allows you to skip regularly scheduled payments until you get back on your feet. Remember, you will have to pay back the missed payments plus interest at the end of the deferral period. Talk to your financial institution if you could benefit from mortgage relief.
- Lower minimum withdrawals for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs): If you’re a senior, you don’t have to worry about liquidating your RRIFs because the minimum withdrawal requirement has been reduced by 25% this year.
- One-time tax-free payment for seniors: If you’re eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, you should have been issued a one-time tax-free payment of $300 during the week of July 6. An extra $200 was provided if you’re eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) too. GIS and Allowance payments have also been extended if your 2019 income information has not been assessed yet.
- Special Disability Tax Credit payment: Certificate holders of the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) as of June 1, 2020 are entitled to a special one-time, tax-free payment of $600. Senior certificate holders can get $300 if they qualify for OAS and $100 if they’re eligible for both OAS and GIS.
- Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB): Available from May to August 2020, the CESB provides post-secondary students with $1,250 every four weeks. Students with dependents or disabilities can get $2,000 for the same period. The CESB applies to recent post-secondary and high school graduates as well. It’s not available to those who have already applied or received the CERB or EI benefits.
- unable to work due to COVID-19
- unable to find work due to COVID-19
- currently working but making less than $1,000 (before taxes) during the four-week period for which you’re applying
- Six-month grace period on Canada student loans: Starting on March 30, students and recent graduates do not need to make payments towards their Canada student loans until September 30, 2020. Interest will also not accrue during this time.
- Updates to the Canada Student Loans Program: The government is doubling the Canada Student Grants to up to $6,000 for full-time students and up to $3,600 for part-time students. It’s also raising maximum weekly payments from $210 to $350 and broadening eligibility for student financial assistance by eliminating the need for student and spousal contributions.
For your first claim: You cannot have made more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income (before deductions) for at least 14 days in a row during the four-week benefit period of your claim.
For subsequent claims: You cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income (before deductions) for the entire four-week benefit period.
The CRA is verifying to make sure people are eligible for this benefit. If you’re found to be ineligible, you will be asked to repay any applicable amounts. If you made a mistake or realized you’re no longer eligible for CERB, you can send CERB payments back through your CRA or Service Canada Account or by online banking or mail.
CERB and CWB
The Canada Worker’s Benefit (CWB) is a refundable tax credit that provides financial support for low-income workers and their families. Eligible individuals can receive a payment of up to $1,355. The maximum amount for families is $2,335. Applications are done when you file your taxes. If you’re a CWB recipient, you can still obtain the CERB as long as you meet all the eligibility requirements.
For more information on the CERB, check out the Government of Canada’s FAQ page.
CERB and EI
The CERB ends on September 27, 2020. After that, Canadians who still require support will transition to the modified Employment Insurance (EI) program.
On August 20, the federal government announced the following EI changes:
Thanks to these changes, EI will be available to more Canadians, including those who would not have qualified in the past.
If you’re eligible for EI benefits starting from September 27, you’ll get a minimum taxable benefit of $400 per week or $240 per week for extended parental benefits. You can collect these benefits for at least 26 weeks.
You’ll automatically transition to EI when CERB ends if you meet the new eligibility criteria and receive the CERB through Service Canada. If you’ve been getting CERB through the CRA, you’ll need to apply for EI through Service Canada. To continue receiving the benefit, you’ll need to reapply every two weeks and confirm that you still meet eligibility requirements.
New benefit programs: CRB, CRSB, and CRCB
If you don’t qualify for EI, you may be eligible for three new income support programs:
These programs begin when the CERB ends and will run for one year. Applications will be done through the CRA. More information about the application process will be released in the coming weeks. Check here for the latest updates.
The final eligibility period for the CESB is August 2 to August 29, 2020. All CESB applications must be submitted before September 30, 2020.
To qualify for the CESB, you must be experiencing one of the following:
COVID-19 financial support by province
Jump to your region:
- British Columbia
- Nova Scotia
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- New Brunswick
- Prince Edward Island (Jump to Territories)
The BC government is allocating $2.8 billion to help residents impacted by COVID-19. The main components of the financial support plan are:
- BC Emergency Benefit for Workers: This one-time tax-free payment of $1,000 is for residents who have lost income due to COVID-19. It’s been expanded to include British Columbians who were unable to work between March 1 to 14, 2020. EI and CERB recipients are eligible too. Apply here. Applications are accepted until December 2, 2020.
- Temporary pandemic pay: Front-line workers can expect a lump-sum payment from their employer that’s equivalent to about $4 per hour for hours worked anytime over a 16-week period starting from March 15 to July 4, 2020. The payment is set to arrive this fall and will most likely be included on a regular paycheque.
- Increased Climate Action Tax Credit: In July 2020, low-to-modest-income families received a larger Climate Action Tax Credit. The one-time enhancement was combined with the federal GST/HST credit payment. It gave adults up to $218 and children up to $64.
- Rental Assistance Program (RAP): BC Housing has made temporary changes to the RAP to better support clients who have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The program offers cash assistance to low-income families so they can cover their monthly rent payments.
- a gross household income of $35,000 or less (maximum income increases to $40,000 effective September 2018)
- at least one dependent child
- been employed at some point over the previous year
- Rent Repayment Plan: Landlords must give tenants a repayment plan for unpaid rent or utilities from March 18 to August 17. Tenants cannot be evicted if they follow the plan and make their payments on time.
- Freeze on rent increases: Landlords can give rent increase notices, however, the increases cannot come into effect until December 1, 2020.
- COVID-19 Crisis Supplement: This supplement has been extended by four months. You’ll automatically receive an extra $300 on cheques issued until December 2020 if you’re currently on:
- Income Assistance
- Disability Assistance
- Comforts Allowance
- BC Senior's Supplement
- CYSN Emergency Relief Support Fund: Families with children with special needs can request $225 per month for up to three months. A final round of the short-term Emergency Relief Support Fund is available from July 1 to September 30, 2020. See full eligibility requirements and how to request funding here.
- Student loan payments suspended: Effective March 30, BC student loan borrowers don’t have to make repayments for six months.
- Bill payment deferrals: BC Hydro and ICBC are allowing catch-up payment plans or payment deferrals for customers who are having trouble paying their monthly bills.
To qualify, your family must have:
To be eligible, you must not be collecting the CERB or EI. If you are getting these benefits, know that they’re temporarily exempt and have no effect on your regular Income Assistance or Disability Assistance.
The provincial government is dedicated to providing immediate relief for Albertans and is offering the following COVID-19 assistance:
- Income exemptions for AISH and Income Support recipients: AISH and Income Support recipients who collect the CERB can exempt a portion of the payment so it doesn’t affect their provincial benefits.
- Protection for renters: Scheduled rent increases can now take effect but can’t be collected retroactively. Late fees cannot be applied to late rent payments before June 30. Previously established payment plans between landlords and tenants will remain in place.
- Student loan payments suspended: Provincial student loans will not accrue interest and don’t need to be paid until September 30, 2020.
- Loan deferrals: Alberta credit union and ATB Financial customers can apply for a postponement on loans, lines of credit, and mortgages. Call your financial institution to get started.
- Self-isolation support program: If you’re a resident aged 18 or older, you can receive $450 per week for a maximum of two weeks if you have to self-isolate. To be eligible, you must not be receiving compensation from your employer, have private insurance, or be collecting benefits from another government program such as EI. Apply online here.
- Temporary wage supplement for low-income workers: Eligible low-income workers are entitled to a temporary supplement of $400 per month for up to 16 weeks from March 15 to July 4. Review the full eligibility requirements here before submitting an online application. Applications must be sent by September 1, 2020.
- Freeze on student loan payments: Provincial student loan borrowers are not required to make payments until September 30, 2020.
- Cash Flow Tax Relief: Manitoba has instructed a number of organizations, municipalities, and service providers (including Manitoba Hydro, Centra Gas, and Manitoba Public Insurance to name a few) to not charge interest or penalties or disconnect customers until October 1, 2020.
- Seniors Economic Recovery Credit: This one-time, refundable tax credit of $200 enables seniors to cover additional costs related to the COVID-19 crisis (i.e. grocery deliveries). Those who did not get a cheque in the mail by June can claim the $200 credit on their 2020 income tax return.
- Disability Economic Support Program: Lower-income residents with disabilities on Employment and Income Assistance benefits automatically get a one-time benefit of $200. Cheques were automatically sent out in early June.
- Insurance affordability: On July 1, the government removed $75 million of annual PST from residential and business properties to make insurance more affordable for Manitobans.
- Tenant support: The Government of Manitoba has frozen rent increases and non-urgent eviction hearings until September 30, 2020. Late fees are also prohibited at this time.
Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID‑19 has dedicated $17 billion to support residents and their careers. The action plan consists of:
- Doubling Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments: Low-income seniors will see larger GAINS payments from April to September 2020. Individuals can receive a maximum monthly payment of $166, while couples can get up to $332. You don’t need to apply if you already collect Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
- Support for Families initiative: Parents who are impacted by school and daycare closures can get a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age. The amount is increased to $250 for children with special needs.
- Affordable electricity bills: The COVID-19 Recovery Rate of 12.8¢/kWh is effective from June 1 until October 31, 2020. From March 24 to May 31, residents were charged off-peak electricity rates for 24 hours a day. These lower rates are automatically applied to your utility bills.
- Expanding eligibility for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP): LEAP provides financial help to low-income households who are behind on their electricity or natural gas bills. The program will receive an additional $9 million in funding to support more families during the pandemic. You will need to interview at a social service agency to determine your eligibility. If you’re approved, you could collect $500 for electricity bills ($600 if your home is heated electrically) and $500 for natural gas bills.
- Tenant protection: Landlords are not allowed to charge fees or penalties for late rent payments. They are also encouraged to establish fair arrangements so tenants can stay in their homes.
- Expanding access to Ontario Works: More people can benefit from Ontario Works, an employment and financial support program which helps individuals cover basic needs like rent and groceries. You can begin the application process online.
- More funding for Ontario Works and ODSP recipients: Ask your caseworker about discretionary benefits if you have exceptional COVID-19-related costs.
- COVID-19 Emergency Assistance: Emergency assistance provides individuals with approximately $733 for one month if they are severely impacted by the pandemic and struggling to pay for food and shelter. The amount increases if you have children. Support can be extended to up to 48 days depending on your situation. Recipients must not be on the Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program. Apply online or contact your local Ontario Works office to get started.
- Caps on payday loans: Effective August 20, payday loan lenders cannot charge more than 2.5% interest per month (non-compounded) on any outstanding principal. There is also a maximum fee of $25 for bounced cheques and pre-authorized debits. This fee can only be charged once, even if your payment methods fall through multiple times.
- Ontario Community Support Program: This program offers free or subsidized delivery for meals, groceries, and prescription medication. It’s meant for low-income seniors and people living with a disability.
- Suspending student loan payments: OSAP loans will not accrue interest and don’t need to be paid until September 30, 2020.
- Incentive Program to Retain Essential Workers (IPREW): Eligible workers may receive up to $1,600 on top of their regular salary or wages. The program pays $100 each week for up to 16 weeks of eligible work, retroactive to March 15, 2020. You qualify for IPREW even if your employer is using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. View all the eligibility requirements here and apply online through My Account for individuals.
- Extended tax filing and payment dates: Provincial tax returns for individuals were due on June 1, 2020. If you owe income tax, the payment deadline has been pushed to September 30, 2020.
- Utility payment deferral: Hydro Québec will waive admin charges on unpaid bills until September 30, 2020. The company won’t cut off your power because of missed payments. You can sign up for a payment arrangement plan through your online account.
- Student loan payments suspended: Provincial student loans will not accrue interest and don’t need to be paid until October 1, 2020.
Nova Scotians facing hardships can benefit from:
- Income Assistance (IA): Residents having trouble meeting basic needs such as food, rent, and utilities can apply for IA. The program offers a standard household rate of $586 per month for individuals who rent or own a home. A couple with one more child is entitled to $1,193 monthly. To apply, call your closest Community Services office to make an appointment.
- Pharmacare changes: The government is taking care of the extra dispensing fees for longer prescriptions that are filled for 30 days at a time. The $5 co-pay will also be waived for people on Income Assistance and the Low-Income Pharmacare for Children program.
- Suspension of student loan payments: Provincial student loans will not accrue interest and don’t need to be paid until September 30, 2020.
Newfoundland and Labrador
COVID-19 assistance in Newfoundland and Labrador is centred around helping workers, students, and families. The government has unveiled the following support so far:
- Self-isolation compensation for private-sector employees: The government is compensating private sector employers so they can pay employees who must self-isolate upon returning to the province. Self-employed individuals can also take part in this program. The maximum amount you can receive is $500 per week for each employee. Employees getting both federal and provincial funding can obtain a combined maximum of $1,000 per week. Applications with supporting documentation must be submitted within three months of the date the employee returned home.
- Utility bill relief: Enjoy a one-time credit on your electricity bill in July. Your credit amount will depend on your usage. The government is also waiving the interest on overdue residential and business accounts for 15 months beginning on June 1, 2020.
- Eviction postponement measures: Evictions are halted for at least 30 days for tenants who have lost income and cannot pay their rent on time due to COVID-19.
- Suspension of student loan payments: Provincial student loans will not accrue interest and don’t need to be paid until September 30, 2020.
- Larger student loan amounts: Provincial student loan limits for the upcoming academic year have increased from $40 to $100 per week. Student and spousal contributions are also no longer required.
The Government of New Brunswick has implemented these measures to help residents with their immediate needs:
- Income Assistance: Financial support for those who lack the income to meet basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. Assistance amounts are based on household income, the number of people in the household, and whether or not individuals can work. Find out if you’re eligible by contacting your local social development office.
- Rent Supplement Assistance: Qualifying tenants will have their rents reduced to 30% of their adjusted household income. The government will send landlords the difference between the rent paid by the tenant and the agreed-upon market rent. Call your local social development office to see if you’re eligible.
- Job protection for workers: Thanks to new legislative amendments, you’re allowed to take an unpaid leave of up to 15 weeks if you’re sick with COVID-19 or caring for someone who is.
- Essential Workers Support Program: Public and private frontline workers can receive monthly payments of up to $500. Amounts are based on the number of hours worked between March 19 to July 9, 2020.
- Relief on co-pay for prescription medication: From now until the end of the pandemic, residents on the public drug plan only need to cover the initial co-payment on a prescription fill or refill.
- Return to school subsidy: High school students from low- and middle-income families can get up to $600 to purchase a new laptop for school. Eligible families can apply for the subsidy through the online Parent Portal.
- Suspension of student loan payments: New Brunswick student loans will not accrue interest and don’t need to be paid until September 30, 2020. The 2020-21 provincial budget also lowered interest rates on provincial student loans to the prime rate.
Prince Edward Island
The government has ended most COVID-19 relief measures, however, islanders in need can still get help from the following programs:
COVID-19 financial support by territory
Residents in the Northwest Territories can take advantage of these services:
The Yukon government is striving to ensure no evictions happen during this pandemic and that self-isolation can happen without a loss of income.
- Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program: Low-income essential workers earning less than $20 per hour can either get a top-up of $4 per hour for up to 40 hours per week or an amount that brings their wage to $20 per hour for up to 40 hours per week, whichever is less. The program covers a maximum of 16 consecutive weeks between March 15 to October 3. Workers cannot access this program if they receive the CERB during the same period. An application form and employee agreement form must be submitted by November 3, 2020.
- The Residential Landlord and Tenant Act prevents evictions for tenants who are self-isolating due to COVID-19. Renters who can’t afford their rent because of the pandemic can end their tenancy early without penalty. As of July 1, 2020, tenants are required to follow their tenancy agreement unless they’re under a health-protection measure. Missed rent must also be repaid by December 31, 2020.
- The Paid Sick Leave Rebate allows employees and self-employed individuals to self-isolate without losing income until March 31, 2021. This rebate covers up to 10 days of earnings, allowing for a two-week self-isolation period. The maximum daily rebate is $378.13.
- 14-day unpaid leave: Complementing the 10-day rebate mentioned above, this new regulation will entitle Yukoners to leave without pay for a period of up to 14 days if they require it as a COVID-19 health protection measure. All employees working for organizations governed by the Yukon Employment Standards Act are eligible.
- Yukon Nominee Program: Foreign nationals working in Yukon through this program who experience layoffs or reduced work hours are no longer subject to the 90-day notice to find new employment for the duration of the public health emergency.
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