What I Learned From Buying a House During COVID-19

Sorry, Dorothy – repeating “there’s no place like home” will not wake you up from the nightmare that 2020 has trapped us in BUT there may be no time like the present to look into buying a new home during a global pandemic. After years of saving (and with a lot of help from our 2020 trip budget), my husband and I were able to buy our first house together. If you are wondering what it is like to house hunt during a worldwide virus outbreak – it was a different experience but one that I am happy I did and learned a lot from. This is what I learned from buying a house during COVID-19.


The Search

When you start getting serious about looking for a house, you start thinking about your criteria. How many bedrooms do you want? What end of the city do you want to live? To reno or not to reno? For us, our dream home originally came complete with an open concept, finished basement and a garage, but quarantine caused us to move some other things up in priority. For example, a home office became suddenly mandatory after I spent months hunched over on a wooden seat at the island in my kitchen. My point is, a few things changed, but it is important to assess what are your must-haves and what has some wiggle room to change.

We had to be very selective when physically viewing houses for a couple reasons. For starters, open house viewings were now a thing of the past so we had to book an appointment to be able to visit. Second, there were procedures put in place to make the experience of buying a home during COVID-19 safe for both us house hunters and the home owners. For example:

  • Prior to entering, we had to participate in a questionnaire to consent that we did not have any symptoms and have not traveled within the past 14 days
  • Out of respect and safety for the home owners, we were told to touch minimal things and whatever we did touch was disinfected afterwards
  • We made sure to keep our 6 feet distance from our realtor, which is hard to do when viewing a house

If anything, these procedures made us feel that both sides were being respected, provided a safe environment and really didn’t add that much more time. It did however, encourage us to really make the most of our time at each location and be very intentional and thorough to decide if this home was an option for us. Overall, it was different – but we found our home!

The Payment

COVID-19 or no COVID-19, figuring out your financing is a big component when you’re making one of the most expensive purchases of your life. You need to know how much you can comfortably afford with your mortgage and bills all factored in, furnishing your new home, plus, you’ve got to eat! For us, as big travelers in a travel ban world, we were able to reallocate our savings for trips for this year into furnishing our home. My advice would be to review what has changed in your finances or savings during COVID-19 and how that will adjust going forward – there is no shame in changing up your plans!

One very important bonus right now for those looking to buy a new home is that the interest rates are low. That’s great news for buyers as the cost of borrowing is much lower so you’ll pay a lot less in the long run. Now more than ever, it is incredibly important to shop around before locking in your lender and the terms of your mortgage. This rate finder tool from Rate Hub gives you a one-stop shop to compare mortgage rates from the Big Banks. But don’t just choose one from there, make sure to shop around via other options like your local credit union or the financial institution you work with for your day-to-day banking. Your financial advisor will be able to work with you to find a mortgage that fits your overall financial well-being and some may even offer lower rates altogether.

Here’s a hot tip for buying a house during COVID-19 that I learned from my realtor: when chatting with your financial institution, be sure to ask what they offer for an interest rate guarantee. An interest rate guarantee or mortgage rate hold, is locking in a specific rate for a certain number of days, so you will be guaranteed that rate even if they go up during your house hunting journey. This is important right now because as the market recovers from COVID-19, the interest rate will continue to rise back up so placing a hold on these low rates will buy you some time to make sure you are being thorough in your house search.

Even if the mortgage rate goes down, some financial institutions will honor the decreased rate. I will admit, I had a mini celebration each time I saw the rate drop before we officially signed our documents. For more helpful tidbits on mortgages during COVID-19, visit this blog we published earlier this month on how COVID-19 affects the renewal of your mortgage.

The Closure

Closing costs and the process it takes can be the most frustrating part of purchasing a home. Although, I wish it was under different circumstances, some of these processes have become quite efficient during COVID-19. Typically, once you are ready to sign on the dotted line – you end up having to do that many times and over many appointments across the city. Because of COVID-19, we were able to sign almost everything digitally including realtor agreements, mortgage documents, insurance and even signing the offer. There were some signatures needed in person with our lawyer but with the new procedures in place – it was quick, easy and safe!

Buying a house during COVID-19 maybe wasn’t the norm, but I was happy with the process and found it much more streamlined. It has been super exciting and has been a source of light in an otherwise dark time. Now we can reminisce on the Facetime bloopers with our realtor and cheers to building back up that trip fund over a distanced drink on our patio!

Recovering Canceled Travel Costs During COVID-19

This year travel came with all the stress and none of the excitement. For many, it meant cancelled trips, leaving most feeling disappointed, concerned and wondering about refunds. After months of planning your dream vacation or weekend getaway, you are now having to spend months scrambling to recoup costs. Here’s some of the best ways – and how to make the most of staying home!


Cancelling a trip due to COVID-19

Let’s be honest, 2020 hasn’t gone as planned for anyone. Especially those who finally saved enough in their piggy banks to take their dream trip. Unless you were lucky enough to travel in January or February,  you’ve spent 2020 cancelling travel plans and refreshing refund policy web pages for updates on how you will recoup your costs. I was a part of the group who were hopeful for a travel resurgence in the Fall and Winter seasons who are now realizing our trips are suffering the same fate as those who booked in the first half of the year.

Travel is exciting and fun but it can also be stressful and a lot of work to plan but typically it is always worth the work. *sighs* But when you throw in a global pandemic, now the time you took to plan the perfect getaway is being rewarded with more work to undo it with the hopes of losing the least amount of money as possible. Navigating refunds from travel plans you’ve spent months assembling can be overwhelming and tough. Here’s what I’ve learned is the best way to recoup these costs:

Flights & Accommodations

For the travel and hospitality industry, COVID-19 has posed as a huge threat. Many flight and travel companies are having to rethink and change their policies to accommodate the safety of their guests and staff, but also the influx in cancellations. Travel service providers, hotels and rental companies worked quickly to address the impacts of COVID-19, posting information and making updates as new information was communicated. Luckily, most made the right decision to shift to more relaxed and flexible refund policies.

With so much information being shared it can be overwhelming. A resource that I found particularly helpful was this article that outlines the  current policies for major airlines, hotels and rental companies.

Another great place to start is to review your travel insurance, if you had any, the terms and conditions of your booking and refund policies. This will help you understand if you need to talk to someone or if you can easily cancel online. If you are having issues finding this information in your booking documents, visit the company’s website. Most companies have created a “COVID-19 Updates” page on their website, making it easy to find the information you need. Finally, if all else fails, pick up the phone and call them. They’ll be able to bring up your information and communicate their refund policies. Plus, many times these agents will be trained to offer exceptions, personalized solutions and even future discounts in order to rectify a situation so sometimes it pays to talk to someone directly.

Tickets

I’m guessing that if you booked an expensive getaway, you likely had some things planned in your destination. Whether it is sports games, concert tickets, art shows and all things in between – most of these attractions would have been purchased in advance. If it’s a concert, you might get lucky as many artists are just postponing shows to the following year instead of cancelling. However, if it’s a sports event or show it might look a little different.  Here are some of the most common ticket sale channels and how to recoup costs:

  1. StubHub
  2. Ticketmaster
  3. Vivid Seats

If you booked tickets outside of these services or you didn’t find any luck through these resources – give them a call. Like I mentioned before, many service providers understand the threat of substitutes in their industry and any unsatisfied customer is a risk to the main thing that keeps them afloat: their reputation. Pick up the phone and explain your situation to them – chances are they will work with you to ensure you leave the conversation satisfied.

Staycation anyone?

Although it hasn’t felt like anything good can come from 2020, life is what you make it! I’m sure you just rolled your eyes a little bit, but I mean it. I once heard that if you want to make progress, you need to create an uncomfortable environment. I don’t know about you, but 2020 has made me pretty uncomfortable. So let’s lean into it and make the best of what life has thrown our way. You know what they say, when life gives you a global pandemic and takes away your dream vacation, make lemonade by turning it into a Saskatchewan Staycation!

Staycation

This new normal has provided perspective and has shown us – it’s okay to slow down.

So, use your vacation days and take some much needed R&R to yourself. Sleep in, read a good book, binge watch that Netflix show, order in from your favourite local spot and truly disconnect from the chaos of the world. If this is exactly what you did during quarantine and your house is feeling like a prison – this is a great opportunity to explore Saskatchewan.

Travel within Saskatchewan 

Saskatchewan is often overlooked because we’re small and don’t have the mountains. As someone who is born and raised in Regina, I even find myself overlooking my own province – thinking ‘I’ve seen it all’ or going back to the same spots because they are familiar.

When we travel, something takes over and we are more open to trying new things and exploring, so I challenge you to take that challenge and go explore the province! I dare you to reacquaint yourself with those little forgotten gems or find somewhere new. Last summer we posted a MONEYTALK blog that helps you travel Saskatchewan on a budget. Just because travel is restricted doesn’t mean you are fenced in to your own backyard.

When you travel within Saskatchewan, you aren’t just exploring something new, you are also helping to fuel our economy. COVID-19 has had major impacts on our economy, by staying and travelling in our own province, you are helping to improve this.

Here are some other great resources on recouping costs and travel information:

What to know about credit card chargebacks

Government of Canada: Travel and Tourism

How does COVID-19 affect how you renew your mortgage?

COVID-19 has changed the way we do many things and renewing your mortgage during this time is no different. Thankfully, if you have a good relationship with your lender, the process is relatively seamless and easy to do while practicing social distancing.


Renewing your Mortgage during COVID-19

By law, lenders must give you 21 days’ notice of renewal before the term of your mortgage is up, but if you would like to plan ahead like I do, you should start thinking about the renewal process 120 days before that renewal date. Most lenders will send you their best offer 30 days before the renewal date but starting early gives you some time to really determine what might work best for you and your family. Whether you are looking for a quick renewal of your current mortgage or you are interested in shopping around for the best rate – there are a few things you should keep in mind to set you up for the next 1-5-10 years of home ownership.

How does money affect the mortgage?

If COVID-19 has had an impact on you financially, it might be time to re-visit your household budget. If you took your mortgage over a 5-year term, a lot can change in that time so you should know what kind of flexibility you have in your monthly finances. Some things to consider:

  • What are your financial goals? For a lot of families, COVID-19 has increased the importance of setting up emergency savings. Keeping your mortgage payments small might help you set up that emergency savings in case of another pandemic or job disruption. If retirement is on the horizon and your investments fell during this time, it might be possible to increase your payments while you’re still working. This will allow you to pay the mortgage off faster so that you are mortgage free once you are on a fixed income.
  • Have you received a sum of money such as bonus or inheritance? Consider applying that to your mortgage principle at the same time. Not only could this reduce your payment, but this pays your mortgage off faster and saves you interest. The tricky part is not convincing yourself that this new windfall gain should be spent on a new vacation!
  • Are there some renovations or home improvements that you’ve got the time to accomplish? You could consider increasing the amount you renew your mortgage for to cover the costs of the shingles or finally heating your garage.

Choose the correct term length for you

One of the biggest considerations is the term of your mortgage. Mortgage terms can vary from 1-10 years with the average being 5 years. If you think that you might want to sell your house in the next 5 years, taking your mortgage over a shorter term will help you avoid any costly early-payout penalties from your lender.

Adjusting your payment frequency to match your financial situation is also a change you may want to consider. Bi-weekly payments that match your pay schedule can pay off your mortgage sooner and decreases the amount of interest that you pay in the long run. A monthly payment may make it easier for you to budget during the month. Each option is unique to you and what makes the most sense for your budget.

How COVID-19 has affected interest rates

If there is a bright side of COVID-19, interest rates have fallen significantly since March, making it a great time to renew your mortgage with a low interest rate. The Bank of Canada’s overnight rate is 1.75%*, allowing lenders to offer mortgages just above Prime at 2.89%* for a 5-year fixed rate mortgage.(as of June 9, 2020. Interest rates are based off of your credit score and may vary).

There are traditionally two types of interest rates, fixed and variable and what works best for you is largely based on your own situation:

Fixed: Most borrowers like the idea of having a fixed mortgage rate to limit any surprises in their budget. Especially if you are recovering from job disruption due to COVID-19, a fixed rate is probably your best option.

Variable: Variable rates are attractive because they are often lower than fixed rate mortgages. A variable rate is usually stable, but it is based off the Prime Rate. If the Bank of Canada increases the overnight rate, it pushes the prime rate up, thus increasing variable rates. If your budget can accommodate some flexibility, choosing a variable rate can save you some money over time.

Try shopping around

If you aren’t happy with your current lender, or see a low rate at another bank, renewing your mortgage is an opportunity to shop around. However, COVID-19 has impacted lives in many ways, so be sure to consider your personal situation before making the switch.

If you haven’t applied for a mortgage since October 2018, you are now required to pass the mortgage stress test when applying for a new mortgage or switching lenders. The stress test ensures that borrowers can afford the mortgage that they are applying for by qualifying them at a higher interest rate. The good news is, the Bank of Canada reduced the greater qualifying rate from 5.04% to 4.94% making it easier to qualify for financing. The greater qualifying rate is only to ensure that you can afford your mortgage, the interest rate you will pay are usually lower than this.

If you are considering switching lenders, there may also be some penalties that you have to pay to move your mortgage. Switching within the 120-day window should avoid early payout penalties. Some other fees to consider are appraisal fees, set-up fees for transferring your mortgage and other administration fees. Part of the power of shopping around is that you can ask for these fees to be covered from your new lender which will save you some cash.

How COVID-19 has affected mortgage applications

The pandemic has changed the way that lenders review applications and could make it harder to access funding when renewing your mortgage. Lenders are reviewing any applications under a microscope so it is important to have your documents in order prior to applying for financing. Income statements, business plans for self-employed applicants and personal net worth statements are some of the documentation that may be required.

If you’ve had to defer payments due to COVID-19, you may have to catch up on those payments before being able to switch lenders. This could come at a major one-time cost so be sure to talk to your current lender about what that cost may be.

Finally, the #1 thing that you can do to set yourself up for success while renewing your mortgage during COVID-19 is to reach out to your Financial Advisor. They can complete a review of your finances and your unique situation in order to give you advice on what the best route is for you.

How to Support Local in Saskatchewan Without Breaking Your Bank

Now more than ever, our local Saskatchewan businesses need our support. It’s no question COVID-19 has impacted each and every person in Saskatchewan and across the world, but this rings especially true for small business. Here are some of the ways you can support local without breaking the bank. Big or small, together our actions can have a tremendous impact. 


The Impacts of COVID-19

As humans, we are creatures of habit. For some, this rings truer than others – I am one of these creatures. Whether it’s that one restaurant you love and always order from because you know the meal is always good or the grocery store you stop at every Sunday because it’s closest to your house. We all have habits, we may not even realize it. More often than not, these restaurants, stores or businesses aren’t local.

We crave routine and when we find something that works or is comfortable it becomes difficult to break that habit. But I’m challenging you to break it!

In Saskatchewan, small businesses account for 98% of businesses in our province, major contributors to the quality of life we all enjoy. Right now, these businesses need our support – COVID-19 has impacted us all in major ways, but it has hit our small businesses especially hard. However, shopping local can sometimes mean needing to spend a little more, and while we move through this uncertain time in our lives, it might mean less income for families and individuals. Between March and April, Statistics Canada reported almost 53,000 job losses in Saskatchewan. While we need to continue to stimulate the economy, we also need to ensure that we are able to care for ourselves, put food on the tables, and pay our bills.

It typically takes a minimum 21 days to break a habit, here are some ways you can start right now, without breaking the bank:

“Where do I even begin?”

When individuals start supporting local there are many benefits. For one, it helps stimulate the economy by allowing money to be cycled back into your community, not only through your purchase, but through these businesses supporting local non-profits, charities and community events.

However, in order to support local, you need to know what is local! Here are some great resources to find what is local in your community:

Shop Local

One of the easiest ways to support local, is to shop local.

In Saskatchewan we have an amazing local community and your options to choose from are truly endless. From grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, sporting goods, and garden centers – our small businesses have it all.  Here are some ways you can shop local without breaking the bank:

  1. Buy gift cards from local stores for birthdays, anniversaries, graduation gifts, etc.
  2. Eat local. Once a month choose a different restaurant to support and order from them
  3. Grocery shop from a local store or farmers market. There is nothing better than fresh produce, especially in the summer
  4. Choose a local shop, this could be a garden center, fitness store or facility, clothing store, etc. to buy from once a month
  5. Going for ice cream? Instead of grabbing a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, find a local ice cream store

Your purchases don’t have to be large or frequent, but if we all come together and contribute in small ways – the impact can mean something big.

Word of Mouth

Supporting local is more than just shopping local. It means enjoying, recommending and sharing your experiences with others.

Right now you maybe can’t afford to shop local, and that’s okay – there are other ways you can show your support. You may have shopped at a local grocery store in the past or had that favourite lunch spot you went to once a month with co-workers. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool – AND it doesn’t cost anything. Here are some ways you can start flexing your influential muscles:

  1. Utilize social media. What businesses do you recommend? What was your experience? What did you love about the product or service they offered? Whether it is posting on your personal social media platforms or sharing your favorite spots in public groups dedicated to supporting local restaurants during the pandemic like this one, your endorsement will likely spark the interest of someone else to try your favorite.
  2. Leave a positive review on google or other platforms. I don’t know about you, but I often check out the reviews section, especially when I’m buying from somewhere new. I like knowing what other people have experienced.
  3. Promote the different ways you’ve seen businesses in your community pivot and adapt in the face of COVID-19. It’s amazing to see how resilient businesses have been in the face of adversity. From launching online stores to donating their profits, they all deserve a shout out.

Donate to a local non-profit or charity

COVID-19 has effected nearly everyone – this rings especially true for more vulnerable populations who have lost access to critical services in our communities. Services such as food supply and housing, but also access to wireless services for students now learning from home or individuals working from home. There are so many amazing organizations across Saskatchewan that exist to support individuals with these areas that are looking for your donations in order to get them through these uncertain times.

“Donations” doesn’t always have to mean money, either. Non-profit and charities are often looking for items of clothing, non-perishable food or books. If you’re anything like me, your closet is full of items you’ve been holding on to you for years for that “one occasion” that never seems to roll around.

Here are some other ideas of items you could donate to shelters, food banks, non-profits, or charitable organizations:

  • Clothing, shoes or bags
  • Old electronic devices, such as laptops, iPad, or phones
  • Food, including baby food
  • Blankets
  • Women’s hygiene products
  • Diapers
  • Books
  • Old school supplies

The next time you are going out for your next purchase, pause and ask yourself, can I buy this from a local store? When you shop local, that money stays local and is reinvested back into the community you live. But remember, support can be shown in many ways and doesn’t only mean purchasing goods and services. Challenge yourself to donate, share word of mouth and educate yourself of what’s local in your community. As a community we are stronger together and that starts with supporting one another.

More COVID-19 Scams to Monitor

During this pandemic, it’s not just your physical health at risk, your financial health may be as well. Throughout times of uncertainty we are seeing fraudsters launch sophisticated scams, exploiting public fears for targeted attacks – and we’re definitely in uncertain times.  In addition to the scams we went over earlier, here are five more of the most prevalent COVID-19 scams we’re seeing used to attack people’s financial health and how you can protect yourself from being a victim.


You don’t think it can happen to you, until it does. We often think we will never fall victim to a scam, but it can happen to anyone. Fraud scams are under reported because victims are too embarrassed to admit they were exploited, and this perpetuates these crimes.

Fraud doesn’t discriminate and the tactics become more predatorial and sophisticated in health and economical crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. More than one million Canadians applied for Employment Insurance between March 16 – 22, 2020 because of COVID-19 job losses. The Government of Saskatchewan started introducing public health orders on March 17 that restricts social gatherings and business closure for non-essential services. People are more isolated than they’ve ever experienced, they’re feeling financially insecure, and their sense of normalcy has been disrupted. Criminals target these feelings and with the increase of information about COVID-19 in media coverage, on social media, and direct email, it can be difficult to know what is trustworthy. Let’s make sure you are aware and protected from the following scams:

Social Media Questionnaires

Have you ever used your first car or your pet’s name as the answers to security questions? I know I have. Although harmless at first glance, these questionnaires are an easy way for a fraudster to gain access to your personal information to either answer your security questions or even pose as you to gain financial access.

You might be thinking, “I would never post this”, but someone you care about might or maybe has already. You may also think “I trust everyone in my friend list to not share my information.” They may be trustworthy, but it just takes one of them to get hacked and all of a sudden your personal information is in the hands of a fraudster.

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • DO NOT participate in these questionnaires and delete any old ones that you’ve posted. Spread the word to your friends and family as well.
  • Do not accept any friend requests from people you do not know and remove anyone that somehow slipped through the cracks.
  • Restrict the privacy settings on your social media accounts
  • Use secure passwords that include letters, numbers, and characters. Change your password routinely
  • Avoid security questions that could be easily guessed

CRA Text Scam

Do you know the warning signs of a scam? With all the uncertainty in the world right now, it’s easy to want to believe the best in people. This is what fraudsters are thriving off – vulnerability. This news story from CBC, warns Canadians of a text scam exploiting the new emergency relief program.

However, this isn’t the only scam going around. Some other scams to be alert for are text messages or emails from fraudsters impersonating the Canada Revenue Agency. This article outlines what to actually expect when the Canada Revenue Agency contacts you.

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • If it’s an unfamiliar phone number or email, don’t automatically trust the source
  • Look for spelling and grammatical errors in the text
  • Ask yourself “Does the URL look credible?” If you have ANY doubt, contact the company and fact check the message.

For more information on how to protect yourself, here the CRA outlines how to ‘Slam the Scam’.

Work From Home Scams

The provincial government recently warned against a work from home scam during the COVID-19 crisis. Fraudulent ads by companies offering opportunities to work from home as securities traders are appearing on social media. These ads promise that traders can keep a large percentage of the profits and they don’t need experience or a license. They only need to pay fees to the would-be traders.

If you’ve experienced job loss from COVID-19 and you’ve lost childcare, this would seem like a good way to replace your income – which is exactly why this tactic is being used. In Saskatchewan, anyone in the business of trading securities must be registered with Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA), unless an exemption applies. The FCAA expects that similar scams will continue to increase during the COVID-19 crisis.

Fraudsters Posing as Financial Institutions

In times of uncertainty or struggle is often when individuals turn to their financial institution for advice, services or products to help them navigate their financial situation.

A text message scam has been circling around where fraudsters are posing as a financial institution, using scare tactics to try and gain access to your information.

 

 

As seen in this message below, someone impersonating Scotiabank has used a scare tactic to make you think your access has been disabled to get you to click the link. As we touched on before, here are some things you want to look out for:

  • Unfamiliar phone number
  • Spelling and grammatical errors
  • Unusual links

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • Don’t click any of the links in the message – go directly to your financial institution’s website through your web browser
  • Always log in to your account directly online or through your mobile app
  • Double check the source of the text – when using scare tactics people often just react, but in reality, you may not even have an account with Scotiabank
  • If something serious was happening to your account, your financial institution would definitely call you, not text you.

Exploiting Grocery Delivery for seniors

As we all take measures to social and physical distance ourselves, common tasks such as grocery shopping have become difficult, especially for some of the most vulnerable in our communities. Unfortunately, fraudsters are posing as helpful citizens offering to deliver groceries to seniors who are socially isolated or are physically unable. These scams ask for e-transfers or credit card numbers in advance with the grocery list. They’ll also ask for your address – not so they know where to deliver the groceries, but so that they can list it as the billing address when they charge the card. Disgusting, right?

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • Utilize delivery services offered directly through grocery stores/business in your community. Many grocery stores have started offering special shopping hours for seniors
  • Rely on friends and family to shop for you
  • Be alert and aware of other scams that exist right now
  • Have conversations with your parents and grandparents to educate them on how they can protect themselves

Remember, fraud does not start and end here – it’s important that you remain alert even as the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end. If you have been targeted or have fallen victim to an attack, it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. It can happen to anyone.

For more information about protecting yourself from fraud and to learn about different scams out there right now, visit https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/features-vedette/2020/covid-19-eng.htm.

Breaking Down the Emergency Support for COVID-19: Non-Profits & Charities

Managing a non-profit or charitable organization is very overwhelming right now. These services are needed more than ever but fundraising is difficult to access with physical distancing and the economic downturn.  Let’s break down the different federal and provincial emergency supports available to help you navigate these unsettling times. 

Updated: April 30, 2020


Non-profit and charity organizations are among those who have been most severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Necessary physical and social distancing measures to contain the infection and protect communities has created significant job loss for Canadians. This means these organizations are depended on more than ever to deliver basic human needs to vulnerable populations who depend on them, especially in a public health crisis and economic downturn. Non-profit and charitable organizations have lost major event fundraising streams, putting a strain on budget while the need for their support continues to rise. 

We’ve done our best to compile and simplify the financial support and professional resources for non-profit and charitable organizations. We’ve also included resources for professional fundraisers to help ease their financial burdens and continue helping our vulnerable neighbors and communities. 

Relief for Non-Profit and Charity Organizations 

Temporary Wage Subsidy for Not-for-Profit Organizations, Charities, and Small Businesses

Government of Canada
The federal government’s temporary wage subsidy is providing not-for-profit organizations and charities a 75% wage subsidy for up to twelve weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020 – June 6, 2020 if their March revenues are down by at least 15% compared to January and February, from COVID-19. For the months of April and May, businesses will need to demonstrate a 30% loss. Employers will also be allowed to measure their revenues either based on as they are earned or as they are received. Charities are being granted the ability to choose whether or not to include government revenues in their calculations of lost revenue when applying. Applicants can use this wage calculator to understand the amount you would be able to claim under the temporary wage subsidy program.

This subsidy will be on the first $58,700 earned, meaning up a maximum of $847 per employee per week, retroactive to March 15, 2020. Employers benefiting from this measure would include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, not-for-profit organizations and charities. This replaces the 10% wage subsidy that was announced early in the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

Applications for the temporary wage subsidy are now open.

Canada Summer Jobs Program

Government of Canada

Temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program will see an increase to the wage subsidy, so that private and public sector employers can also receive up to 100 per cent of the provincial or territorial minimum hourly wage for each employee. This will continue to allow students to find meaningful employment during the summer and develop critical skills to transition into the labour market.

Additional ways the 2020 program has been adjusted to allow flexibility to both applicants and employers include:

  • end date for employment is now February 28, 2021;
  • employers can adapt their projects and job activities to support essential services; and
  • hiring can now include part-time positions.

Youth will be able to search for jobs available in their communities through the Job Bank website and app.

More Time to Pay Income Taxes

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has extended the income tax filing and payments for charities to December 31, 2020, for all charities with a Form T3010, Registered Charity Information Return due between March 18, 2020 and December 31, 2020. This relief applies to tax balances due, as well as installments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. 

Bill-Deferral Program on Provincial Utilities

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 

ISC Suspension Order for Strike Off Provisions

The Information Services Corporation (ISC) has suspended the strike off provisions for non-profit corporations, co-operatives, and new generation co-operative entities. The suspension is meant to assist organizations that are not in a position to file annual returns and financial statements at the Corporate Registry due to delays in annual meetings caused by the restrictions and recommendations on public gatherings. To further lessen the impact of being unable to file in a timely manner, annual return late filing fees for not-for-profit corporations and co-operatives will be suspended. 

Relief for Human Services  

Emergency Shelters

Government of Canada

The federal government is directing $350 million to charity and non-profit organizations who deliver basic human needs, through the Emergency Community Support Fund. The fund will flow through national organizations that have the ability to distribute funds quickly to local organizations that serve vulnerable populations. Some of the services the Fund will support include:

  • increasing volunteer-based home deliveries of groceries and medications;
  • transportation services, like accompanying or driving seniors or persons with disabilities to appointments;
  • expanding capacity for help-lines to manage call volumes and wait times for information and support;
  • training, supplies, and other required supports to volunteers; and
  • replacing in-person, one-on-one contact and social gatherings with virtual contact through phone calls, texts, teleconferences, and the Internet.

Emergency Shelters

Government of Canada
The Reaching Home program will provide $157.5 million to continue supporting those who are homeless. The funds can be used for needs such as purchasing beds and physical barriers to improve social distancing in shelters. It’s also available to secure accommodations during the outbreak to reduce overcrowding in shelters.  

Government of Saskatchewan
The Government of Saskatchewan is providing one-time additional funding of $171,000 targeted to meet the extra cost pressure emergency shelters are experiencing as they continue to serve those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.  These organizations currently provide more than 300 beds for individuals who need emergency shelter and supports. Organizations receiving the increase are: Lloydminster Men’s Shelter; YWCA Regina – My Aunt’s Place; YWCA Prince Albert; YWCA Saskatoon; Lighthouse Saskatoon; Lighthouse North Battleford; Salvation Army Saskatoon; Salvation Army Regina; Soul’s Harbour Regina and Soul’s Harbour Moose Jaw.   

Modified Emergency Shelter Response

Government of Saskatchewan
When emergency shelters are unable to meet the needs of an individual or family because of capacity pressures, Social Services will support those in need with funds for emergency hotel stays and will work to transition clients to permanent housing. 

If an individual is required by Public Health to self-isolate due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, that person will be transitioned to a safe accommodation such as a hotel or an individual housing unit. 

There are approximately 1,700 vacant Saskatchewan Housing Corporation units located in 29 larger communities that will be leveraged to ensure those impacted by COVID-19 are able to access housing or an individualized space to self isolate.  An additional 1,200 units are available in smaller communities across Saskatchewan. 

Support for Children, Youth & Families

Government of Saskatchewan
Transitions to independence for young people will be delayed, so that any youth that “ages out of care” during the COVID-19 pandemic will not be transitioned out of their current housing.   

Child Care Subsidy

Government of Saskatchewan
To help families receiving the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), any families who were receiving part-time benefits because their children were attending school will receive full-time benefits, retroactive to March 1, 2020.  The CCS helps parents with low to moderate incomes with the costs of licensed child care. 

Income Assistance (IA)

Government of Saskatchewan
All Income Assistance clients will continue to receive their benefits even if a client is late reporting, effective March 19, 2020.

Social Services Physical Distancing and Eased Reporting Measures

Government of Saskatchewan
Social Services offices remain open with the first hour of the day reserved for more vulnerable individuals, including those with a disability or health issues such as a compromised immune system. Clients are asked not to visit the offices unless it’s an emergency and you’re unable to call your social worker or you are asked to visit an office. 

Saskatchewan residents who may need income support can apply here or call the Client Service Centre at 1-866-221-5200.  More staff have been shifted to the Call Centre to help serve those in need.

Domestic & Family Violence

Government of Canada
$50 million will be given to women’s shelters and sexual assault centers to help ease capacity and prevent outbreaks among women and children fleeing interpersonal and domestic violence. This funding will also support facilities in Indigenous communities.  

Youth Mental Health Care

Government of Canada
Kids Help Phone is experiencing increased demand for its 24/7 confidential online, telephone, and text counselling services across Canadaas a result of school closures and reduced access to community resources. The Government of Canada is giving $7.5 million in funding to Kids Help Phone to provide young people with the mental health confidential support. 

Caring for Vulnerable Seniors

Government of Canada
Canadian seniors are among the most impacted by COVID-19, and often rely on caregiving support from people who live outside of their homes. The Government of Canada will contribute $9 million through United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors. These services could include the delivery of groceries, medications, or other needed items, or personal outreach to assess individuals’ needs and connect them to community supports. If you are planning to donate to these charities, be careful as there are a lot of scams pretending to be these reputable organizations. Visit this MONEYTALK blog on COVID-19 scams to monitor and how to ensure you are contributing to a valid organization.

Resources for Fundraising Professionals 

LINK: COVID-19 resource guide for fundraising professionals

The Association of Fundraising Professionals has gathered educations and resources to help non-profit and charitable organizations navigate fundraising, donor communicationsand what it means to engage with donors during a time in which social distancing and staying home is more important than ever. 

Conexus Member Support for Non-Profit Organizations and Charities

Conexus can help assess your situation and determine the best options to provide some relief including working with you to activate a skip-payment plan, to defer monthly payments, or to create an interest only payment plan to help your business navigate the economic downturn. 

 This relief is available to members, non-profit and charity organizations, small business members, commercial members, and agricultural members in good standing who are feeling a financial impact and are looking for a temporary relief from mortgage, line of credit and loan payments.  Please avoid coming into a branch and call your financial advisor or our Member Contact Centre at 1-800-667-7477.  

Conexus Business Accelerator

In partnership with Meyers Norris Penny, Conexus Credit Union offers free business webinar courses for non-profit and charitable organizations and business owners in Saskatchewan. Protecting Your Business and Employees, Managing Cash Flow and Stress Management are just a few of the courses that are relevant to this time. 

 Do you work or volunteer in the non-profit and charity sector and are looking to view the complete action plans from both governments? Visit the following:

FEDERAL   |   PROVINCIAL

What Emergency Funding is Available for Businesses & Ag Producers

The COVID-19 pandemic is making a significant impact on the Canadian economy, especially with small and medium sized businesses. The federal and provincial governments have announced different support efforts to relieve businesses and agricultural producers during these anxious times. Let’s help you break down these different measures so that you can brave this storm and best protect your business’ financial well-being.

UPDATED: May 21, 2020


Due to the nature of COVID-19, how it spreads, and how self-isolation is the best way to fight against it, businesses across Canada are facing difficult decisions. Over the last week, many provinces and municipalities have announced measures to stop the spread of the virus that resulted in business closures and massive layoffs. The Government of Canada has also announced multiple initiatives to support businesses to provide economic stability during this time. Agricultural producers are also feeling the weight of the pandemic as they approach the beginning of spring seeding and how to get their goods from a difficult 2019 growing year to market. Most of the information below and how to apply for benefits from the Government of Canada can be found here.

Supports for Businesses

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

Canadian businesses, including non-profit organizations and charities, whose March revenue has decreased by at least 15% due to COVID-19 and facing employee layoffs can access a temporary wage subsidy. Business owners can receive 75% of wages per employee to a maximum of $58,700 during the 3-month period, to a maximum of $847/week per employee. These payments will be back dated to March 15, 2020. Businesses will have to apply for the program through the My Business Account portal on the Canada Revenue Agency’s website. They will also need to apply each month. To qualify, they will need to prove that their revenues have fallen at least 15% in March, as compared to January and February’s revenues.For non-profits or charities where revenue verification will be more difficult, may be able to access the subsidy by proving donations have reduced. However, the specific details for these organizations is still being worked out.

The 10% wage subsidy that the government announced earlier this month is still in effect. Small businesses can continue to claim the 10% wage subsidy, to a maximum of $25,000 or $1,375/employee. Businesses do not need to have experienced a decrease in revenue for this and can access this support immediately by adjusting the remittances of income tax that they withhold from employee pay. If a business is already receiving the 10% wage subsidy, they can also receive the CEWS, however the amount they receive will  be adjusted down accordingly so that they receive a maximum of 75% subsidy between both programs.

To create some balance between employers and employees, the Government of Saskatchewan will allow businesses to not have to provide notice or pay in lieu in the event of a public emergency when the layoff is 12 weeks or less during a 16-week period. Additionally, if an employee is laid off for more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period, they will be considered terminated and entitled to access federal employment insurance programs.

Businesses also qualify for payment deferrals on loans, skip-a-payment, and interest only payment plans. You are encouraged to reach out to your financial institution to determine what supports are available to you and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance

The Government of Canada has announced the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, in co-operation with Canada’s Provinces to provide much needed commercial rent relief to small businesses during this unprecedented time. This program will lower rent by 75% for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19, in co-operation with the property owner. The program provides commercial property owners access to forgivable loans if they cover 50% of the rent payments for eligible small business tenants.

The commercial property owner must agree to reduce the tenants rent by 75% for the months of April, May and June under a Rent Forgiveness Agreement. The property owner would not be able to evict the tenant under the agreement, and the tenant would cover the remaining 25% of rent owed. Tenants must be paying less than $50,000 a month in rent, have ceased operations or experienced a 70% decline in revenues due to COVID-19. Non-profit and charitable organizations also qualify for the program.

To apply and find more information, visit the CMHC website.

Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment

The Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment program provides much needed financial assistance to Saskatchewan’s small businesses that had to close or reduce operations due to the public health order during COVID-19.

The payment can be used for any purpose, including covering fixed costs or the costs associating with re-opening after the public health order has lifted restrictions. Payments are based of 15% of the businesses’ monthly revenue in April 2019 or February 2020 to a maximum of $5,000. Seasonal businesses 15% payments are based off the average monthly sales revenue for their 2019 operational months.

To be eligible, a Saskatchewan business or not-for-profit must:

  • Have been carrying on business in Saskatchewan on February 29, 2020;
  • Have been ordered to temporarily close or curtail operations through a COVID-19 public health order;
  • Have less than 500 employees:
    • Seasonal businesses:
      • In the year before the COVID-19 public health order; or
      • When averaged for the 3 years before the year in which the COVID-19 public health order;
    • Attest that they:
      • have experienced a loss in sales revenue from business activities due to a COVID-19 public health order;
      • plan to reopen operations following the cancellation of the COVID-19 public health order; and
      • have not received any payments or amounts from any other sources, including insurance, to replace or compensate for the loss of sales revenue other than amounts from other government assistance programs; and
    • Apply on or before July 31, 2020.

Applications can be completed on the Government of Saskatchewan website.

Business Tax Filing

Like the measures taken for filing personal income taxes, businesses will be able to defer the payment of income tax until September 1, 2020. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts owing. The Canada Revenue Agency will also pause most of its audit interactions for businesses for the next 4 weeks. For businesses requiring assistance understanding your tax obligations, help will be administered over the phone or through webinar.

Businesses and self-employed individuals can defer payments of the Goods and Services (GST)/ Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) until June 30, 2020. Businesses will also be able to defer customs duties owing on imports until June 30, 2020. Details about remittance schedules and how they qualify can be found here.

The Saskatchewan Government is also providing relief for you if you own a business and are unable to submit your Provincial Sales Tax (PST) remittance over the next three-months. You can submit a request for relief from penalty and interest charges here. Like the federal government, they are also pausing audit and compliance programs for businesses.

Credit Services

Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

This emergency loan program will allow businesses to access interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to cover operating costs while revenue is down due to COVID-19. Contact your business advisor or financial institution to learn more about the CEBA and what it means for your business.

What is the CEBA loan?

  • $40,000 interest-free loan to help you cover operating costs you were not able to defer because of COVID-19
  • $10,000 (25%) of the $40,000 loan is eligible for complete forgiveness if $30,000 is repaid on or before December 31, 2022
  • If the loan cannot be repaid by December 31, 2022 it can be converted into a 3-year loan with an interest rate of 5%
  • Once your loan application has been reviewed and submitted the process for funding will take up to 7 days from completion.

How does the CEBA loan work?

  • The loan will be funded as a $40,000 term loan, 0% interest and no payments until December 31,2022
  • No interest will apply until January 1, 2023
  • Beginning January 1, 2023, interest accrues on the balance of the term loan at the rate of 5% per annum, payable monthly on the last day of the month
  • If you pay 75% of the balance of the term loan on or before December 31, 2022, the remaining balance of your term loan will be forgiven. For example, if your balance is $40,000 on January 1, 2021 and you repay $30,000 on or before December 31, 2022, the remaining $10,000 will be forgiven
  • If you do not repay the 75% of the balance of the term loan on or before December 31, 2022, the full loan balance and all accrued and unpaid interest will be due and payable on December 31, 2025.

What’s the eligibility criteria?

The eligibility criteria are as follows, per the Government of Canada’s requirements:

  • You are a Canadian operating company (ie. not a holding company) registered and in operation on or before March 1, 2020
  • Your Annual payroll expense is between $20,000 and $1.5 million, as evidenced on your 2019 T4 Summary of Renumeration Paid (T4SUM). If you cannot locate your T4SUM contact Revenue Canada for reissue
  • A 15-digit Canada Revenue Agency Number also shown on your T4SUM
  • Conexus is your primary financial institution – meaning your everyday business banking account and cash management activities are held with Conexus, and opened on or before March 1, 2020
    • If your everyday business banking account is held elsewhere, please apply for funding through the Financial Institution that holds your primary Business Operating Account
  • Your account must be in Good Standing as an existing member

Expanded eligibility as of May 19, 2020

The criteria for access to the CEBA Loan Program has been expanded to include businesses with sole proprietors, those that rely on contractors or family owned businesses that pay employees through dividends. To be eligible, applicants with payroll less than $20,000 must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a business operating account at a participating financial institution
  • Have a Canada Revenue Agency business number
  • Filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return
  • Have eligible non-deferrable expenses such as rent, property taxes, utilities and insurance that equal between $40,000 and $1.5 million

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Co-Loan

On March 27th, the Federal Government announced the BDC Co-Lending Program to support Canadian businesses of all sizes that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.  Eligible applicants can access up to $6.25 million CAD (max loans amount dependent on business size) in loans to cover operating expenses such as rent and payroll and working capital needs such as inventory.  The loan will be jointly funded by BDC and your financial institution.

 

Business with less than $1 Million in Annual Revenue

Businesses with $1-50 Million in Annual Revenue

Businesses with over $50 Million in Annual Revenue

Up to $312,500 Up to $3.125 million

Up to $6.25 million

How does the BDC Co-Lending Program work?

  • Eligible business members can apply for financing to support their operational and liquidity needs
  • Term Loan
  • First 12 months to be interest only

What’s the eligibility criteria?

  • Been a member with your financial institution as of March 1, 2020
  • Been a viable business as of March 1, 2020 prior to COVID-19 impact
  • Meet the necessary requirements that will form part of the application process

More information can be found on the BDC website here.

To further ensure Canada’s businesses have access to credit services during this time, the Government of Canada is relaxing its parameters for certain funding:

  • The Canada Account ensures Canadian Exporters have access to loans, guarantees, and insurance policies during this time.
  • The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) is allowing the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada to support small and medium businesses with an additional $10 billion. In addition, BCAP and BDC will work with private sector lenders to ensure credit solutions are offered for individual businesses, specifically businesses that operate in the oil and gas, air transportation, and tourism sectors.
  • Canada’s individual banks will be able to access $300 billion for the economy by lowering the Domestic Stability Buffer of risk-weighted assets by 1.25%. This is in addition to the Bank of Canada reducing its interest rate to 0.75% to support the economy. Further reductions to the interest rate are expected, but not known at this time.

More details on market support measures taken by the Government of Canada can be found here.

Export Development Canada Business Credit Availability Program Guarantee

As part of the federal government’s new $65 billion Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP), Conexus Credit Union and Export Development Canada (EDC) are partnering to provide small-and medium-sized Canadian businesses with financing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access the credit you need to cover payroll and other operating costs during this global health crisis. The EDC BCAP Guarantee provides businesses with up to $6.25 million in credit to cover operational costs like payroll and rent. Proceeds from the BCAP-supported loan cannot be used to repay or refinance existing debt (further restrictions apply to other non-operational costs). Export sales are not required to qualify for the program.

EDC fees related to this guarantee will be deferred for the first six months, giving some short-term relief to your business. EDC will provide a guarantee to Conexus Credit Union on 80% of the value of your loan. By sharing risk with EDC, we can help your company access the financing it needs. Note that the guarantee is to our institution, not your business, so you remain responsible for the full value of the loan.

For more information on the loan and the eligibility criteria, contact your business advisor.

Information can also be found on the EDC website.

Regional Relief and Recovery Fund

The Government of Canada has announced additional funding for small and medium businesses who need additional relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) provides $962 million in relief funding delivered through regional development agencies. Specifically, $304 million is allocated to Western Economic Diversification Canada to assist Western Canadian businesses specifically in the tourism sector.

The objective of the RRRF is to assist Western Canadian businesses that do not qualify for other programs such as the Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) or the Community Futures Emergency Loan Program. The RRRF will support businesses in two ways:

  • Provides up to $40,000 in repayable contributions to businesses that are not eligible to access other federal support programs. Businesses that receive funds from the RRRF and repay 75% of the contribution (up to $30,000) on or before December 31, 2022 will result in forgiveness of 25% of the contribution (up to $10,000).
  • Provide up to $1,000,000 in repayable contributions to businesses that can demonstrate a meaningful contribution to the Western Canadian economy and are experiencing liquidity issues. These companies may not have accessed other Government of Canada relief programs, or may have accessed them, but require additional funding to mitigate cash flow pressures. This contribution is fully repayable.

Further details, including eligibility criteria for each stream, and how to apply, can be found here.

Examples of business that are eligible to apply to the RRRF:

  • Pre-revenue firms (e.g. a company that has not had any sales to date)
  • Businesses that do not have salaried employees (e.g. a company with a workforce of contract employees)
  • Businesses with no payroll that do pay their owners a salary (e.g. a company that pays its owners through dividends)

Examples of businesses that are not eligible to apply to the RRRF:

Applications are being accepted through Western Economic Development Canada and can be found here.

Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility

The Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) is a program to support large employers through COVID-19. The program provides short-term liquidity assistance in the form of interest-bearing term loans through the Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corporation, a subsidiary of the Canada Development Investment Corporation. The assistance is available to large Canadian employers who meet the following criteria:

  • Make a significant impact on Canada’s economy by:
    • Having significant operations in Canada
    • Supporting a significant workforce in Canada
  • Have annual revenues of $300 million or more
  • Require a minimum loan of $60 million
  • Have never been found guilty of tax evasion

Assistance is available to large for-profit enterprises in all industries, except those who operate in the financial sector, as well as certain not-for-profit businesses. They must commit to minimizing loss of employment by sustaining their business operations through COVID-19 and provide an overall plan to return to financial stability.

For full information on LEEFF, visit the Canada Development Investment Corporation fact sheet here.

Canada Summer Jobs Program

On April 8th, the federal government announced changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program to do more for students and small businesses that rely on the program to deliver essential services. The program creates almost 70,000 jobs for Canadians aged 15 to 30. Temporary changes to the program for this year include:

  • Increase to the wage subsidy so that employees can receive up to 100% of the minimum hourly wage for each employee
  • End date for employment is now February 28, 2021
  • Employers can adapt their activities to support essential services
  • Hiring staff on a part-time basis

Supports for Agricultural Producers

Farmers and the agri-food sector will be supported by Farm Credit Canada and an additional $5 billion dollars provided by the Government of Canada. You are encouraged to contact Farm Credit Canada to discuss the supports available to you.

Eligible farmers who have an outstanding Advanced Payments Program (APP) loan that comes due on or before April 30 will receive an automatic stay of default, giving farmers an additional 6 months to repay the loan. Those farmers with outstanding interest free loans, under the $1 million cap, can also apply for an additional $100,000 interest free portion for the 2020-21 year.

Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund

Farm Credit Canada will be running the Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund, providing agribusinesses and producers much needed relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. $100 million dollars will be available in the form of convertible debt investments and other flexible financing options. Companies that have experienced business disruption can apply for up to $10 million.

Fish Harvesters Benefit

Fish harvesters facing a 25% drop in income due to COVID-19, will have access to $470 million in relief from the Federal Government. The Fish Harvesters Benefit covers up to 75% of losses to a maximum of $10,000. Additional relief in the form of non-repayable grants will be available and the rules for Employment Insurance claims in 2021 will be changed to reflect previous years income.

AgriRecovery Set-Aside Program

The Saskatchewan Government announced an additional $5 million dollars for participation in the AgriRecovery Set-Aside Program, supporting producers in the livestock industry that need to hold their livestock back from markets. Saskatchewan Livestock producers will be able to access a total of $12.5 million under the program. 40% of the program is funded by the Saskatchewan Government, with the remaining 60% funded by the Federal Government. The program will be delivered to Saskatchewan producers through Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation.

Western Livestock Price Insurance Program

The Western Livestock Price Insurance Program (WLPIP) supports livestock producers by reducing the price of livestock insurance purchased through WLPIP. $5 million is being provided by the Saskatchewan Government to offset the premiums producers are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 40% of the increased premium costs, back to February 25, 2020 will be covered by the government. Additionally, the deadline for obtaining calf price insurance through WLPIP is being extended to June 18, from May 28, 2020. Premium adjustments will be in place until September 1, 2020, and reviewed at that time.

Producers may also qualify for payment deferrals on loans, skip-a-payment, and interest only payment plans. You are encouraged to reach out to your financial institution to determine what supports are available to you and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.

Breaking Down the Emergency Funds for COVID-19: Individuals & Families

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.

GST Credit

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.

Students

Student Loans

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.

Other Supports

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.

Mortgages

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.

Utility Deferrals

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

City Supports

Specific measures for major municipalities in Saskatchewan can be found here:

Saskatoon     |     Regina      |      Prince Albert      |     Moose Jaw      |     Humboldt

Groceries

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.

Childcare

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.

Employment Insurance

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

If you qualify for either of these situations, you can apply here. You can also call to apply, but wait times will be much higher than normal.

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.

Beware of These Scams During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As you take precautions to protect yourself from the coronavirus, don’t forget to safeguard your financial well-being from fraudsters who are hoping to cash in on the paranoia. Here’s how you can identify scams that are currently being used and what you can do to ensure you are shielded from fraud during the pandemic. 


Well this escalated quickly.

The coronavirus is a devastating pandemic that is making a massive impact on the economy and health care systems all across the world. As of March 20, the world has experienced over 267,000 cases of the virus and although Canada is only representing a small portion of that total with 925 cases, we are in uncharted territory. Terms like “social distancing” and “self monitoring” have become second nature in (remote) conversation and we’ve all been exchanging shows to binge on Netflix during our two week long self-isolation periods.

This is truly an unsettling time where paranoia and panic are running rampant. Unfortunately, like a virus themselves, fraudsters and scammers feed on this urgency and as if we didn’t have enough to worry about, with the increase in global coverage comes an increase in fraud activity. Let’s make sure you are briefed and safeguarded against the types of fraud to watch out for so you can focus on protecting yourself from the global pandemic.

Fraudulent Health Products & Professionals

Fraudsters know that during a pandemic, your anxiety surrounding your health skyrockets and you’ll do whatever it takes to ensure you and your family are protected. From the moment that the coronavirus hit the global media, scammers were creating fake products that claim to boost your immune system, cure you from symptoms and, in some instances, have access to a vaccine.

The sad truth of the matter is that although they are in development, we are likely a year away from having a vaccine available and there are no approved drugs to prevent the virus. The websites and messages that these scammers are sending are chocked full with convincing information on the product, faux testimonials, professional sounding terms like “clinical trial” and even conspiracy theories about their company having access to a vaccine that the pharmaceutical industry is withholding for money. We’ve also seen con artists who are impersonating World Health Organization professionals with alleged access to information on a miracle drug. These con artists have been sending emails with important updates on the virus that prompts readers to click on a phishing link or download malicious software.

How you can protect yourself: Caution will prevail here. As long as you know that any medical information, especially on vaccines or treatment, will come directly from your healthcare professional and not from a link from a suspicious email address – you’ll know not to click anything or entertain any offers for a miracle drug. Be suspicious of products and “professionals” that have cured the virus and when in doubt, check with your health care professional.

Fake Charities & Fundraising Efforts

Another tactic that fraudsters employ is to pull on your heart strings. With the coronavirus affecting so many small businesses and charities, many are calling for aid in order to navigate these tough waters. Scam emails and phone calls have been going out to try and trick people into donating to fake charities and relief efforts. They may say that they are looking for a small donation but as soon as they have your credit card number or authorization, they have access to take as much as they want.

In addition, you may see a few GoFundMe pages pop up on social media feeds to rally monetary support to offset expenses that affected families are incurring due to the virus. Most of these pages are started by incredibly generous people in order to provide support for families in a time of need, but unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters have also taken advantage of this method.

How you can protect yourself: Unless you know the family that is garnering the support or someone you know can vouch for them, it is safest to move along from any GoFundMe page or fundraising websites calling for monetary support. If you do want to contribute some money to a relief fund, consider experienced or established relief organizations, especially those that clearly describe the use of the funds. Beware of scammers impersonating those organizations, though!

Face Mask Scams

Yes, these are a thing. Scammers are actually capitalizing on the high demand for face masks. Many different websites and organizations claiming to sell face masks online are attempting to lure you in by showing they have a limited amount of stock available. Why is this effective? The urgency and scarcity for an in-demand product will increase the likelihood of an impulsive purchase. It’s the same method that infomercials employ with “Act now before it’s gone!” messaging. The Red Cross has actually issued a warning that scammers are posing as them to solicit face mask purchases through text messages.

How you can protect yourself: Whether it is face masks, hand sanitizer or another product you are buying to protect yourself and your loved ones, make sure you are keeping an eye out for phony e-commerce sites and scams. If your gut is telling you that something “just doesn’t feel right” or “it seems too good to be true”, it most likely is. Only purchase from stores and websites with an established reputation. The most effective way to avoid a scam is to buy directly from a seller you are familiar with and who you already trust. When in doubt, make sure the seller has legitimate contact information, a real street address and a customer service number you can call before you hand over your name, address and credit card number.


It has yet to be seen how long the coronavirus will remain classified as a pandemic, but heightened fraud activity will be a constant throughout. Remain vigilant to avoid scams related to the virus, use caution when giving out your credit card information to e-commerce and relief efforts,  and look out for fake cures, phony prevention measures, and other coronavirus cons. We’ll get through this – but let’s make sure your financial well-being does, too.

The Great Buy vs. Lease Debate

It’s one of the most hotly contested debates of our time: Is buying or leasing a new vehicle the way to go?

Depending on who you ask, you’ll typically get a passionate and definitive answer based on personal experience. This blog weighs the pros and cons for each alternative and attempts to crown a victor. Spoiler alert: it’s not as clear cut as you may think. 


I currently drive a 2011 Ford Escape that has been an absolute dream for the past nine years. For about a year and a half, I’ve been contemplating trading it in for an upgrade but I’ve really enjoyed not having to worry about a monthly vehicle payment. The thought of trading in my SUV remained dormant in the back of my mind until one day when I was driving on Ring Road (Regina’s controlled highway that circles the city) and it hit me!

No, it actually hit me. Mid-transit, my hood flew up and smashed my windshield which left me travelling at 80 km/h on Regina’s main expressway without being able to see in front of me. Once I somehow safely navigated my way to the side of the road and got over the shock of what had just transpired, the first thing that went through my head was “it’s time for a new vehicle.”

In the past, I’ve always bought my vehicles (because that’s what Dad had always told me to do) but I’ve noticed that leasing is growing in popularity. Before I jumped on the same path, I decided to do my research to figure out the answer to the age-old question: “lease or buy?” Let’s break down both sides:

The Case for: Buying

  • No limits on the amount of kilometers you drive. Drive it off the lot and into the ground if you want! When you lease, you have a maximum amount of annual kilometers that you have to stay under without paying a penalty.
  • Your monthly payments will likely be higher than leasing, but you are paying to own. Eventually you will pay off your vehicle and will eliminate your monthly payment. I just spent five years without a vehicle payment and it made an enormous difference to my budget.
  • Freedom to customize, sell or trade in whenever you want. The vehicle is yours so feel free to put in those customized velvet seat covers to match the fuzzy dice hanging from your rear view mirror. You can’t do that under a lease.
  • No transactional fees. Depending on who you are leasing from, they may charge a “transaction fee” when you exchange your vehicle or buy it out at the end of your lease. Dealerships will claim it is to cover the paperwork that needs to be done, but these can usually be negotiated down before you sign your lease. Leasing will also require you to purchase a package policy on your insurance so be prepared for that expense as well.
  • Cheaper in the LONG run. Assuming your vehicle doesn’t require a ton of repairs once your warranty runs out and we’re operating in a stable market, purchasing is typically cheaper in the long run. Although your monthly payments will be more expensive compared to leasing, you will likely only need to pay for maintenance once you’ve paid off your vehicle. On the other hand, leasers will always have a monthly payment. In addition, you’ll be able to sell or trade-in your vehicle which will earn you a big chunk of change towards your next vehicle.
  • You don’t always have to buy new. Buying can be A LOT cheaper if you buy a used vehicle. Depending on how used the vehicle is, you will be incurring more risk for repairs but if you do your due-diligence, this can drastically boost your budget.

The Case for: Leasing

  • Cheaper in the SHORT term. Your monthly payments will be lower than financing a new vehicle. This allows you some more capacity to cover your monthly expenses and the ability to drive a newer vehicle without busting your budget.
  • Better warranty protection. Last year, I had to pay a couple hundred dollars to have my spark plugs changed. Apparently this can be done for much cheaper if you know how to do it yourself but if you are like me and feel incredibly accomplished after hanging a picture frame – finding coverage to make these repairs is definitely the best route. When leasing, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is regular upkeep (oil changes, car washes, etc.) and any damage subject to your deductible if you cause an accident.
  • New car every 2-4 years. When you finance a car, it will typically take you 3-5 years to pay it off and then you’ll likely spend another couple of years enjoying a life with no monthly car payment. By the time you are ready to trade-in your car, you’ll be craving the newest features. After driving without them for ten years, I would be tempted to take heated seats and a backup camera over a functional airbag at this point. A lease allows you to drive a new vehicle every 2-4 years which will help quiet your hankerings to sacrifice safety for comfort.
  • No money up front. When you are purchasing or financing a new vehicle, you’ll likely need to put down a big chunk of money in order to unlock smaller interest rates and shrink your monthly payments to a point where they won’t eat you alive. Buying instead of leasing typically takes more time as you’ll need to save for a while before you are ready to put a down payment on a car. You should obviously take some time to ensure leasing a new car fits your budget, but once you’ve made that decision, not having to pay any money up front can put you in the drivers seat of your new vehicle much faster.
  • Tax break if you are using it for business purpose. There are some tax advantages if you are leasing a car and using it for business purposes. Turbo Tax Canada breaks down these benefits in this article, but you can deduct the business percentage of your lease payments on your income tax. For instance, if you own your own business, your annual lease payment is $4,000 and you use your car for 75% business use – you may be able to deduct $3,000 on your annual tax return.
  • Easier to budget and no unexpected, expensive trips to the service department. I mentioned my spark plug struggle above, but that costly experience came when I took my post-warranty vehicle to the dealership to check out why my rear-windshield wiper fluid squirter (I’m quite confident this isn’t the technical term) was not working. This quick trip turned into an unexpected $2,000 purchase that included new brake pads, spark plugs, a new wiper squirter (again, not the technical term) and a few other things. This unexpected cost not only ruined my day, but it completely threw off my monthly budget and sentenced me to a month of eating ramen noodles. Because you’re always under warranty while leasing, your monthly payments are expected and you don’t need to worry about unexpected issues that will quickly burn a hole in your wallet and your budget.
  • No trade-in hassles at the end of the lease. Whether you are privately selling your car or looking to trade it in, it’s a huge hassle. Assuming you aren’t looking to buy-out the rest of your vehicle and you kept your vehicle in good condition, the end of your lease is quite hassle free. If you are continuing with a new lease, all you have to do is drive up with your old vehicle and drive off with a new one.

The Verdict: It Depends.

I know, I know – that’s the answer that nobody likes but it’s true. The good news is that there really is no wrong answer, but the trick is finding the best solution for you and your lifestyle. This decision is comparable to whether you want to buy or rent a house. Buying allows you more freedom to customize and is generally cheaper in the long-term, where renting removes the hassle of making repairs and gives you the flexibility to jump from house to house once your rental contract is up. If you are somebody that knows autobody, craves customization and ownership, wants to commit long-term and possesses the ability to diagnose and make repairs on your vehicle, buying may be the best route for you. If you prefer to drive a new vehicle without having to worry about maintenance costs and are comfortable with always having a monthly payment – leasing might be your best bet.

Here’s more good news – you aren’t stuck on one path for your entire life. Feel free to try out both options if it makes sense for both your budget and your lifestyle!


Like I said above, it’s common for people to have a very definitive opinion on this debate. Let’s hear yours!