The COVID-19 crisis has produced a lot of federal and provincial government action in order to support Canadians through these unsettling times. However, unless you are already familiar with these supports, a lot of the terms and relief options can sound intimidating and may go unused if you do not understand them. Let’s break down the different emergency fund options for individuals and families, the qualifications for each and how you can utilize them to protect your financial well-being.
UPDATED: May 21, 2020
Over the last week, there have been countless announcements about financial support for both families and businesses across Canada. The increase in information can be a lot to take in when you are worrying about your job, family, and finances. Most of the information below and how to apply for benefits from the Government of Canada can be found here. I’ve done my best to compile and simplify the essential information so you can understand how local governments in our province and the provincial and federal governments are stepping up to help Canadians.
If you are a low-income single adult or family, you will receive a special top-up payment under the Goods and Services Tax (GST). This will double the maximum annual GST credit you will receive for the 2019-2020 benefit year. Payments will increase by almost $400 for single low-income adults, and almost $600 for couples. The one-time payment will arrive in early May 2020.
Canada Child Benefit
If you are entitled to the Canada Child Benefit, you will see payments increase for the 2019-20 year by $300 per child. On average, this will mean an additional $550 increase for families. This will be issued on the May 20, 2020 CCB payment.
Canada Student Loans payments will be deferred for a period of 6 months. Payments will be paused, and no interest will accrue on the amount owing. If you also have student loans with the Government of Saskatchewan, a 6-month loan payment deferral has also been implemented, mirroring the federal relief. Student loans from your financial institution may also qualify for a skip-a-payment plan, but you should contact your financial institution to find out the options available to you and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.
Canada Summer Jobs Program
Students across Canada rely on the Canada Summer Jobs Program to find meaningful employment during the summer and develop critical skills to transition into the labour market. The 2020 program has been adjusted to allow flexibility to both applicants and employers in the following ways:
- End date for employment is now February 28, 2021
- Employers can adapt their activities to support essential services
- Hiring can now include part-time positions
Canadian Emergency Student Benefit
On April 22, the Federal Government announced the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit which provides funding for Canadian students who do not qualify for the CERB benefit. This provides $1,250/month to students through the months of May to August. The amount increases to $2,000/month if you have a disability, have dependents or provide care for others. Students who are working and make less than $1,000/month also qualify for the benefit.
Eligibility criteria is as follows:
- You have not received the CERB or Employment Insurance benefits
- You are a Canadian citizen, registered Indian, permanent resident or protected person
- You are studying in Canada or abroad
- You are enrolled in a post-secondary educational program or completed your post-secondary program December 2019 or later, or completed or expect to complete high school in 2020 and have applied for a post-secondary program that starts before February 1, 2021
- You are unable to work due to COVID-19 or your income is less than $1,000/month due to the pandemic
Applications can be submitted here and need to be submitted every four weeks. You can receive your money faster by signing up for direct deposit through your My CRA Account.
Canada Student Service Grant
The Federal Government also announced funding of up to $5,000 for students who choose to volunteer instead of work during this time. The grant depends on the amount of volunteer hours but can provide between $1,000 -$5,000 towards tuition for the 20-21 year.
Students will also see their Canada Student Grants double for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21 school year. The Canada Student Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependents are also being doubled.
Funding will be increased by $75.2 million to support First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nation students, although there is no information about how that assistance will be handed out.
Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement Payment
Seniors who receive Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payments from the Federal Government will receive up to $500 in a one-time payment to offset increased costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors will see an additional $300 for OAS and $200 for GIS automatically applied on the next payment they receive.
RRIF and RPP Withdrawals
Withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) are being reduced by 25% for the 2020 year. This also applies if you are receiving benefit payments from a defined Registered Pension Plan (RPP). You can view the minimum withdrawal percentage as of 2018 here.
The Canadian Government is providing $50 billion for the Ensured Mortgage Protection Program to support Canadians who are affected by COVID-19. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and other mortgage insurers are offering payment deferrals and special payment arrangements effective immediately on all CMHC insured mortgages.
In addition, many financial institutions in Canada are committed to working with customers to provide flexible solutions to your financial needs. This includes payment deferral on mortgages, auto loans, and personal loans for up to 6 months. You are encouraged to contact your financial institution to better understand your options during this time and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.
Saskatchewan Crown Corporations that operate utilities in the province will offer a zero-interest deferral on all utility payments for a period of 6 months.
SaskTel – waiving data overage charges, offering news and family channels for free
SaskPower – stopped active collections and won’t be limiting power supply to customers
SaskEnergy – deferring payments and not limiting natural gas supply
Specific measures for major municipalities in Saskatchewan can be found here:
If you’ve visited a grocery store in the last two weeks, you’ll know that essentials like toilet paper, bleach, and disinfecting wipes are scarce. The major grocery stores in Canada have assured the public that the supply chain to keep stores stocked is strong. This has also been supported by the United States and Canadian governments’ commitment to keep the borders open to commercial traffic to ensure the flow of these goods.
In addition, major grocers have also committed to maintaining the price of goods instead of increasing prices as we usually see with an increase in demand. The President and CEO of Loblaws released this statement.
The Government of Saskatchewan has announced that childcare facilities that are located within Saskatchewan’s schools will be re-purposed to assist with the childcare demands of health-care workers and essential services workers. This includes those employed in healthcare, child services, and emergency services. Read more here.
Personal Income Tax Filing
The date for filing personal income taxes for the 2019-20 year has been extended to June 1, 2020. However, to receive the new Canada Child Benefit payment and the GST one-time payment, you are encouraged to file your personal income taxes as soon as possible to ensure the amounts you will receive for the 2020-2021 year are correct. The Canada Child Benefit and GST payments are based off your 2019 taxes, and the amounts take effect in July 2020.
If you file your 2019 personal income tax, and owe money, you have until September 1, 2020 to make a payment on the taxes you owe. No interest will be accrued on any balances owing.
Where it applies, electronic signatures will be recognized instead of in-person signatures, to encourage social distancing. Measures will also be taken to encourage the public to file your income tax electronically and they have provided help with understanding your personal income tax over phone and webinar.
Trusts that operate on a December 31, 2019 taxation year, such as family trusts, have until May 30, 2020 to submit your 2019 trust income tax returns. This is extended from the March 30, 2020 deadline.
If you qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) Sick Leave Benefits, the requirements for EI are as follows:
Unemployed due to work closure?
REQUIREMENT TO QUALIFY: 700 hours worked in the last 52 weeks
- Your employer will need to submit a Record of Employment to the Government of Canada.
- The one week waiting period remains in effect.
Unemployed due to self-quarantine?
REQUIREMENT TO QUALIFY: 600 hours worked in the last 52 weeks
- You do not need to provide a Record of Employment or doctor’s note.
- The one week waiting period is waived
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide up to $2,000 a month for the next four months if you don’t qualify for Employment Insurance. Administered through the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), you may qualify if you are one of the following:
- self-employed, quarantined, or sick with COVID-19
- self-employed and caring for a family member who is sick with COVID-19
- a parent of children and cannot work due to school or daycare closures, whether you qualify for Employment Insurance or not
- have not received any income in the last 14 days including provincial or federal benefits
- have not quit your job voluntarily
- have earned $5,000 in income in the last 12 months or 2019, including benefit payments from Maternity or Parental leaves
- facing reduced income due to the pandemic, working less than 10 hours a week
If you are facing unemployment and don’t qualify for EI:
You will not need to provide a doctor’s note to access these benefits and are encouraged to sign up to receive the benefit through direct deposit. The application will be available in early April, and applicants will need to confirm they meet the requirements when they apply. You will also need to reconfirm your eligibility every four weeks. You can apply in one of two ways:
- Applying online
- Calling toll-free at 1-833-381-2725
You can speed up your application by signing up for direct deposit through the Canada Revenue Agency and online banking. More information on how to sign up through Conexus online banking can be found here. When applying through My CRA or My Service Canada, you will need a secure PIN code. If you feel you qualify for this benefit and do not have access to either of these accounts, you can request your PIN here. It can take up to 10 business days before you receive it in the mail, so requesting it now ensures you’re ready to apply when the application opens.
It is important to note, that if you receive the CERB benefit, you have to re-apply every four weeks to continue to receive the benefit if you need it. The CERB program provides relief until October 2, 2020. If you are still facing unemployment after that, you can apply for Employment Insurance.
EI Work Sharing Program
If you’ve agreed to reduce your normal working hours because of your employer’s efforts to curb the impact of COVID-19, you can also take advantage of the EI Work Sharing program. This provides Employment Insurance benefits to you if you’re still employed but working less than you normally would. In order to qualify for these benefits, you will have needed to work 76 weeks (an increase in the standard 52 weeks).
The Government of Saskatchewan also passed legislation ensuring that if you need time off work because you are sick with COVID-19 or are required to care for a family member who is sick, you will not experience job loss. Even if you have been working with your employer for less than 13 weeks, you qualify for job protection under this legislation.
Self-Isolation Support Program
If you have contracted COVID-19, have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, or recently returned from international travel, you are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days. In this instance, the Government of Saskatchewan has announced the Self-Isolation Support Program that provides you with $450 a week, for a maximum of two weeks as income support. To qualify, you must also meet the following criteria:
- you are ineligible for compensation from your employer through sick or vacation leave
- you do not have access to private insurance to cover labour disruptions
- you are not covered by the other federal income support programs that have been announced
Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Subsidy
The Government of Saskatchewan announced a $56 million program to provide a temporary wage subsidy to those who are currently working with vulnerable citizens. Those workers who are earning less than $2,500/month can access an additional $400/month for up to 16 weeks. The 16-week period is retroactive to March 15 and runs until July 4.
Workers who are considered essential workers, working as caregivers, cooks and cleaners in senior-care facilities, including private care homes and home care are eligible for the subsidy. Those who work in the same positions, caregivers, cooks and cleaners in licensed childcare facilities, group homes and emergency shelters are also included.
Applications will be accepted online, and more information can be found on the government website here.
Born & raised Saskatchewan farm girl, wife and mother of two spirited girls. I have been completing my Bachelor of Management between work and maternity leaves, with a goal of graduating in 2021…(Full Bio in “Meet The Authors”)
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