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Government of Canada's Covid-19 Response Plan

Covid-19 is very much upon us. Businesses and individuals are having a really hard time keeping up in this state of emergency, whether we’re talking about bill payments, getting groceries or being able to afford your rent or mortgage payment in the face of potential job loss and economic uncertainty. All 3 levels of government seem to be working diligently in their efforts to respond to this crisis, but updates (although regular) aren’t particularly clear. It seems like there are new policies coming out every other day, and most of them are unclear or additional information is still pending.

My information is accurate as of March 31st, 2020. It’s a rapidly evolving situation and things are changing almost daily, but I’ll do my best to update you as we go.

The Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan is developing as we go. As of April 1st, 2020, the day I’m writing this, here are the federal aid and assistance programs that are available to Canadians.

  1. Canada Child Benefit The Canada Child Benefit or CCB will be increased to include an extra $300 per child for the 2019-2020 year. It will be given to families as a part of their May 2020 CCB payment. If you already have and qualify for CCB, you do not have to re-apply; the extra $300 will come to you automatically next month.

  2. Special GST credit The federal government is issuing a one-time special payment that will go out in May 2020. This is a GST credit for low- to modest-income families. There are no definitions about what low or modest income means but that’s fine because this is NOT application based. If you qualify for it then you’ll get it automatically.

  3. Tax deadline extension For individuals, the deadline to file your taxes has been extended to June 1, 2020, rather than the usual April 30th deadline. If you are self-employed, the original deadline for you and your spouse was June 15, 2020, and this remains unchanged. There is additional information for charities, trusts, corporations, and other groups, so I’ll put the link below so you can confirm the relevant dates.

  4. Mortgage assistance This is one that’s caught the attention of the public. Mortgage deferrals, which basically mean you’re delaying your payment (not skipping it entirely), are available on a case-by-case basis at most lenders in Canada. The federal government announced this policy but it’s pretty much up to the lenders themselves to decide how to go about doing it, what terms to offer, and which mortgages or homeowners to approve. There is also specific help for people who have insured mortgages (meaning if you put less than 20% down payment on your home). Please note: this part is only specific to insured mortgages. The 3 national mortgage insurers (CMHC, Canada Guaranty and Genworth) are working with homeowners and lenders to offer additional help like deferred payments (including interest and principal), loan re-amortizations, and special payment arrangements.

  5. Canada Emergency Response Benefit The long awaited program which I’ll call C.E.R.B. is planning to make its debut in early April (the government website is currently saying it’ll be available Apr 6). It basically will provide a taxable benefit of $2000 for up to 4 months for a qualifying individual who has lost their income due to Covid-19. This is an application-based program, and they have eligibility criteria listed on their website. Basically, there are certain situations under which you are or will be impacted (and it has to be a direct result of Covid-19). So you can’t just quit work and then say you’re not getting an income. There’s a lot of confusion about this credit, and I hope that in the next couple of days there will be additional info on how to qualify and apply for C.E.R.B.

  6. Employment Insurance If you’ve lost your job through no fault of your own, you can qualify for EI. You may also qualify for EI through some other criteria, but it cannot be because you just decided to stop working. EI is application based and you must prove the need. There are a lot of people that need the program, and they should get access to it, rather than those who are just trying to take advantage of the system.

  7. Canada student loans The National Student Loans Service Centre is suspending mandatory payments on student loans and stopping all pre-authorized debits until September 30th, 2020. Also, the loans will not accrue any additional interest between the period of March 30th - September 30th.

Those are some of the policies and programs available as a part of Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. Surely in the coming days and weeks we will hear more from the government about how people can use these programs to support themselves and their families. We’re really going through some unprecedented times right now, and I’ll do my best to keep you updated on the policies that can help you in this difficult time.

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