A Guide To COVID-19 Government Support And Relief Programs In Canada
Apr 22, 2020 • 15 min read
Governments and institutions have announced new ways to help support Canadians through this challenging time. We recommend checking government and official sites provided for the most up-to-date information. However, we know it can be overwhelming, so we’ve made a list to help you understand some of the options both federally and provincially during COVID-19.
There are also a variety of payment deferral programs being offered by banks and lenders. You can learn more about what it means, the potential impact on your credit score and whether it is the right fit for you here.
Financial Support Across Canada
CANADA EMERGENCY RESPONSE BENEFIT (CERB)
The federal government is providing temporary income support in the amount of $2,000 per month for up to 16 weeks to all those that have stopped working or are without employment due to COVID-19. (Note- this is a taxable benefit)
Criteria: CERB is only available to individuals who stopped working. This could be because: you’re a working parent who must stay home without pay to care for children, you’re a worker who became sick, quarantined or taking care of someone sick and quarantined, you’re still employed but not being paid or you're a worker ineligible for Employment Insurance.
EXPANDED ELIGIBILITY: Seasonal workers and those who have recently run out of EI will now qualify for CERB as well as those that make less than $1,000 a month due to reduced work hours.
How to Apply: The Canada Revenue Agency has started accepting applications, but you can only apply on specific days based on the month you were born.
You will need to apply every 4 weeks to continue to get benefits.
NOTE: If you applied for Employment Insurance yo don't need to re-apply for the CERB. If you became eligible for EI before March 15th, your request will be dealt with under EI rules. If you became eligible for EI after March 15th you will automatically be processed under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
The Government will provide a one-time GST/HST credit payment on April 9, 2020. This payment will double the maximum - with a payment of almost $400 for individuals and $600 for couples.
There is now additional clarity on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). This allows employers impacted by COVID-19 to get up to 75% of employee wages subsidized for up to 12 months (spanning from March 15, 2020- June 6, 2020).
Criteria: You can determine eligibility and what you you might be entitled to using the new online resources available here,
How to Apply: Applications will be open on April 27, 2020. Employers may apply using the CRA’s My Business Account or a separate online application form.
The 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy aimed at reducing the amount of payroll deductions is still available for a three-month period and is required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency.
According to a recent news release, The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program (CECRA) will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners experiencing rent shortfalls that have been impacted by the COVID-19. To be eligible, property owners must reduce the rental costs of small business tenants by at least 75% and agree to a moratorium on evictions for three months.
CANADA CHILD BENEFIT
The maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) is increased by $300 per child as part of the May payment.
Criteria: If you’ve already received the CCB, the criteria has not changed. If not, you must be responsible for a child under 18 years of age. You must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, protected person, temporary resident who lived in Canada for the last 18 months with a valid permit, or an Indigenous person who meets the definition of ‘Indian’ under the Indian Act.
How to Apply: If you already receive the CCB, no application is needed. It is typically done by paper during birth registration in a hospital. You can also apply online by signing into your CRA account and going to ‘apply for child benefits’. You should receive payment within eight weeks.
Students will be automatically given a six-month interest-free payment deferral on student loans effective March 30, 2020.
There is a proposed to change the Canada Student Loan Program’s eligibility requirements in 2020-21 to allow more students to qualify. Updates will be released shortly.
UPDATE: Although still awaiting final approval, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit will offer $1,250 a month to Canadian and permanent resident post-secondary students and graduates. This benefit is to be available from May to August 2020. The amount of $1,750 will be provided to students with dependents and permanent disabilities.
The CRA is extending the tax filing deadline for personal income returns to June 1, 2020. If you think you’ll be eligible for a return, you can still submit early. Get tips on getting the most from deductions here
You will also have until August 31, 2020 to pay your tax balance with no penalties or interest
The federal government is reducing the required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25% for 2020.
For more details on government financial support, visit : Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. There is also a new virtual assistant available online to answer questions.
If you’ve lost income due to self-isolation, you can access a one-time payment of $1,146 via Interac e-transfer (Emergency Isolation Support Payment)
Criteria: You’ve lost significant income without any source of compensation (Employment Insurance, workplace sick leave) because you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, have been directed by authorities to self-isolate, or are the sole caregiver of a dependant in self-isolation.
How to Apply: Sign into the MyAlberta Emergency Isolation Support system using your MyAlberta Digital ID (MADI) account to fill the application. If you don’t have a MADI account, sign up during the application process using your driver’s license or ID card number (without the need to wait 10-days for a mailed verification code). If you’re approved, you’ll receive the payment in 24-48 hours.
Six-month deferral on ATB loans, lines of credit, and mortgages
How to Apply: Contact ATB to work out a plan for your personal situation.
The Education Property Tax for homeowners and tenants will not be increased and will be frozen at last year’s level
90-day payment deferral for electricity and natural gas bills
Criteria: You experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19.
How to Apply: Call your utility provider to arrange for the deferral on all payments. You will need your account information.
If you’ve been required to self-isolate or to care for a dependant, you may be eligible for job-protected leave for 14-days for full-time and part-time employees (amended Employment Standards Code)
Criteria: You’re required to self-isolate or you’re caring for a dependant required to self-isolate.
Note: No medical note is required and you don't need to have worked for an employer for more than 90-days.
For more details on Alberta’s financial support, visit : Support for Albertans
If you lost income as a result of COVID-19, you could be eligible for a one-time payment of $1,000 (Emergency Benefit for Workers)
Criteria: Residents who are receiving federal Employment Insurance or the federal Emergency Response Benefit are eligible.
How to Apply: April 2020 - government claims applications will open ‘soon’ and funds will be available beginning May 2020.
The Climate Action Tax Credit could be enhanced up to $218 for adults and $564 for families
Criteria: You're 19+, have a spouse or common-law partner, or are a parent and live with your child. You must have been a resident on the first day of the previous quarter to the first day of the current quarter.
How to Apply: No application needed. The CRA calculates your amount and you receive directly from them.
ICBC members can get a 90-day payment deferral on a monthly payment plan.
Apply online here or call customer support at 1-800-665-6442.
If you are receiving any of the following: Income Assistance Disability Assistance, Comforts Allowance or BC Senior’s Supplement, but not eligible for EI or CERB you will automatically receive a $300 supplement on cheques issued in April, May, and June. Read more here.
There is a freeze on rent increases being implemented across the province. ‘Non-payment of rent’ related evictions in subsidized and affordable housing will also be temporarily suspended
Tenants will be offered $500 in emergency relief that will be paid directly to landlords. To learn more and apply, visit BC Housing.
If you’ve lost income to COVID-19, you could get a grant of up to $600 to pay hydro bills (BC Hydro Customer Crisis Fund)
Criteria: You’re the residential account holder. You have overdue payments and are facing disconnection due to a life event in the past 12-months that caused temporary financial hardship. You have an outstanding balance of over $1,000 and have demonstrated some attempt to make payments.
Apply online here.
Payment flexibility plans with BC Hydro (Customer Assistance Program)
Criteria: You're experiencing financial hardship and possible disconnection of their services due to job loss, illness, or loss of a family member.
How to Apply: Call BC Hydro’s customer team directly at 1-800-224-9376.
The Manitoba government announced freezes on any rent increases slated past April 1. They are also postponing all non-urgent eviction hearings. Read more here
One-time payment of $900 through the Red Cross for workers or self-employed residents who lost work due to COVID-19. Check here for updates on how to apply.
Drug coverage relief for patients to only be responsible for the first co-payment on a prescription fill or refill series.
Child-care fees could be covered for those that have lost income due to COVID-19
How to Apply: Notify the department using the parent portal or call 1-833-221-9339 and an advisor will assist you.
Covering ‘double fees’ for essential workers who pay to secure a space in their usual child-care facility, but the facility is closed due to COVID-19 and the child is attending an emergency child-care facility.
How to Apply: Notify the department using the parent portal or call 1-833-221-9339 and an advisor will assist you.
90-day payment deferral program for electricity bills with NB Power, waiving interest for past-due balances and late payment charges issued after March 19, 2020 for those impacted by COVID-19
Ban on disconnecting electricity for non-payment and collection efforts
You can also extend existing payment arrangements with NB Power
How to Apply: Call NB Power at 1-800-663-6272.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Support is available through the CERB on a federal level. If you are currently receiving Income Support from the province, you cannot receive both at the same time. Previous Income support benefits are continuing to be issued with direct deposits. Find more here.
How to Apply to CERB: The Canada Revenue Agency has started accepting applications, but you can only apply on specific days based on the month you were born.
As of March 30, 2020, all Newfoundland and Labrador student loan borrowers will automatically have their repayments suspended until September 30, 2020. No application is necessary. You can find more here.
Three-month payment deferral program for loan payments with BDIC with no penalties or additional charges.
How to Apply: Send an email to your regional Department of Industry Tourism and Investment office stating that you want to reduce or suspend payments. Include the three-month time period you want it to take effect.
If you're at risk of becoming homeless, you can request one-time emergency funding.
Criteria: You’re a youth or adult facing homelessness in the Northwest Territories and require assistance for accessing affordable and stable housing find details here
How to Apply: Call the Homelessness Coordinator at 867-767-9080 ext. 85463 or toll-free at 1-844-698-4663.
Payment deferrals for renting programs with Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. Evictions will not be carried out unless there is a significant health and safety issue.
Additional $50 is being offered to anyone on income assistance starting March 20, 2020.
To support businesses, many program and service fees are deferred until 30 June 2020. This includes workers compensation premiums and licence, permit, registration, renewal and service fees.
Landlords are not permitted to change locks or seize property of businesses who cannot pay rent, if the business closed as a result of COVID-19.
The government is investing $230,000 in Community Links and Seniors’ Safety Programs to respond to the needs of vulnerable older adults across the province. If you’re an older Nova Scotian (or if you’re concerned about one) and you need non-emergency, non-medical help, call 211.
Small businesses, non-profits, charities and social enterprises who have had to close or reduce operations because of the public health order may be eligible for a flexible grant. Through this new $20-million program, eligible applicants can access a one-time grant (equal to 15 % of revenue from sales) either from April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000.
How to Apply: The deadline to apply is 25 April. Read more about eligibility requirements and how to apply.
One-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age and $250 for those with special needs to help pay for extra costs due to school and daycare closures
$26 million in emergency assistance for Indigenous people in financial need, costs for healthcare, and critical supplies to reach remote First Nations
Low-income seniors could apply for double the monthly benefit through the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) benefit for up to six-months
Criteria: You're 65 years or older. You have lived in Ontario for the past 12-months or for a total of 20-years since turning 18. You have been a resident for 10-years or more. You receive the federal OAS pension and GIS payments. You have an annual private income of up to $1,992 if you're single or up to $3,984 if you're a senior couple.
How to Apply: Application not needed if you receive the OAS and GIS payments.
Grants up to $500 for electricity bills ($600 if your home is heated electrically) and $500 for natural gas bills available for low-income residents.
Criteria: You're considered a low-income household (see if you qualify here) and are behind on bills or in arrears. You're at risk of being disconnected due to non-payment of bills.
How to Apply: You will likely interview with a representative of a social service agency. You will need to provide identification, current electric and gas bills, a disconnection notice (if you received one), a copy of a rental contract, lease, or mortgage documents, proof of household income (income tax returns for adult members of the household, cheque stubs, employment letters), and a copy of your most recent bank statement.
Hydro prices will be lowered for 45-days to match the current off-peak rate of 10.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, saving households an estimated $20 a month.
Disconnecting electricity for households and small businesses that fail to pay utilities will be banned until July 31.
Payment flexibility plans with Hydro One
How to Apply: Call 1-888-664-9376 Monday to Friday 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. or Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Employees in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, who need to be away from work to care for children due to school and daycare closures, or who care for other relatives can apply for job-protected leave . Note: No medical note is needed.
For more details on Ontario’s financial support, visit : Ontario's Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19
Prince Edward Island
Employees who experienced a significant drop in working hours can get a temporary allowance of up to $250 per week.
Criteria: The employer has employees who experienced a drop of at least eight hours per week between March 16 to March 29.
How to Apply: The employer is responsible for completing the application on behalf of the employees.
Sobeys is offering a gift card valued at $100 given to any resident who received a lay-off notice directly due to COVID-19 (Employee Gift Card Program).
Criteria: The employer has issued lay-off notices to one or more employees as a result of COVID-19 between March 13 and March 31 and the affected employees have a wage of $25 an hour or less.
How to Apply: The employer is responsible for completing the application and distributing the gift cards to employees.
$573 per week for up to four-weeks (Temporary Aid for Workers)
Criteria: You contracted the virus or present symptoms, have been in contact with an infected person, or have returned from abroad. You're not receiving compensation from your employer, do not have private insurance, and are not covered by another government program.
How to Apply: Read more about the government assistance programs here.
Three-month moratorium for repayment of existing loans with Fonds local d’investissement Note: Interest still accrues during the time and will be added onto the loan balance.
The homeowner property tax instalment will be postponed to July 2 (Montreal only).
Administrative charges on unpaid invoices with Hydro Quebec will be suspended until further notice, banned from disconnecting electricity for non-payment.
Weekly payments of $450 for up to two-weeks for residents forced to self-isolate (Self-Isolation Support Program)
Criteria: You’re in self-isolation because you contracted the virus and showed symptoms, or were in contact with an infected person, or returned from abroad. You’re not being compensated by your employer. You do not have private insurance and you're not covered by another government program, such as Employment Insurance.(Self-Isolation Support Program)
Six-month deferral program to waive interest for past-due Crown utility bills.
Introducing unpaid public health emergency leave and removing 13-week employment and medical note requirement to access sick leave (amended Saskatchewan Employment Act).
10-days of sick leave entitled to self-employed or workers without leave options, which is intended to cover a 14-day quarantine period
The Bottom Line
If you’re not sure what a relief program means, contact the number listed on their website or get in touch with their customer support. They should be able to give you more information about what they’re doing to help during COVID-19. The best source of current information is on the Government of Canada’s website.
As always, you can track and monitor your credit score free, anytime as well as access personalized tips, tools and recommendations to improve your financial health.
Borrowell is dedicated to making financial stability possible for everyone. With over 2 million members, the company offers free credit scores in Canada, education, weekly credit monitoring, credit building solutions, as well as digital tools like AI-powered credit coaching and personalized financial product recommendations. For more information, visit borrowell.com or download the mobile app for Android or iOS.