This fourth entry in the Doing More with Our Money blog covers many of the Canadian Federal and Provincial Government financial benefits relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is a bit of a departure from the intended topics of this blog. Given the financial impact to many people during this crisis, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about this.
There have been many programs put in place for businesses, including wage subsidies, loans, rent relief, etc. There are also many other programs that don’t necessarily give us money or savings but may still directly or indirectly benefit many of us.
Our focus today will be on individuals and families, specifically on the programs and benefits that will put money in our pockets, or at least delay making us part with our money.
The Fine Print
There have been many announcements about various government programs and benefits over the last several weeks. Likely there will be many more. This list focuses on the Federal actions, although will also mention some relating to DMWOM’s home province of Ontario.
This is not an exhaustive list. It is important for us all to continue to pay attention to the news to see how further developments will affect our different personal and family situations.
There are also a lot of criteria determining who is eligible for each benefit, much more so than I could possibly cover in this little blog. As such, please make sure to do your homework on any that you think may apply to you.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
This is a benefit provided by the Canadian Government for employed and self-employed Canadians “who are directly affected by Covid-19”. It provides $500 a week for up to 16 weeks, paid out as $2,000 over four 4-week blocks.
You apply for the first 4-week period, then if you still meet the eligibility requirements for the next 4-week period, you apply again at that time, and so on. In order to be eligible for this benefit, you must meet the following criteria:
- A Canadian Resident that is 15 years old or older
- You didn’t quit your job voluntarily
- You aren’t applying for or receiving Employment Insurance Benefits during the same time period
- You earned a pre-tax income of $5,000 (minimum) over the previous 12 months, or in all of 2019. This income can include employment income, self-employment income and government benefits for Mat. or Pat. leave
- You stopped or will stop working due to COVID-19 AND for at least 14 days of the 4-week period you are applying for, you don’t expect to make more than $1000 (before taxes) from employment or self-employment income
These are the main stipulations. There are some more, so make sure to read all the details prior to applying.
There have been news reports indicating anyone applying for these benefits automatically receive them, even if they don’t actually qualify. The Government has responded confirming that this is true. Their intent is to give people the money now, and vet everyone later. This likely means when they find out someone didn’t actually meet the criteria, it will have to be paid back.
Also don’t forget that the CERB $ are taxable, so make sure you put some dollars aside (if you are able) as you will have to pay taxes on it when you file your 2020 tax return.
Frontline Worker Wage Supplement
The Ontario Government has announced that frontline workers will get an additional $4 per hour for the next four months over and above their current wages. Also, if those same workers work over 100 hours per month, they will get an additional $250 per month.
If you are a personal support worker, or you work in corrections, emergency shelters, retirement and long-term care homes, etc., you may be eligible.
Mortgage Payment Deferrals
In cooperation with the Federal government, Canada’s big six banks are allowing mortgage payment deferrals for up to six months for qualified homeowners. It is important to note that in most cases, you will be paying more interest over the mortgage term when you defer payments.
Home Office Expenses
If your employer is requiring you to work from home during the crisis, you may be eligible to claim unreimbursed home office related expenses on your 2020 tax return. You would need your employer to provide a signed T2200 ‘Declaration of Conditions of Employment’ form that stipulates you were required to maintain a home office.
There are a lot of details in determining whether you would qualify for this. Also, there are many home office expenses, and even a portion of regular home expenses (electricity, heating, home repairs, etc.) that are and are not claimable. It will be different for everyone depending on your unique situation, so make sure to do your homework on this one.
Ontario Car Insurance Relief
The Government of Ontario has allowed insurance companies the ability to provide payment rebates during the crisis and for up to 12 months after it has ended. This is not an automatic payment or discount, like some of the other Government actions.
Before this announcement, Insurance companies were restricted from offering rebates. The Government has removed this restriction and is encouraging Insurance companies to provide relief to their customers. Check with your Insurance Company to see what rebates they are providing, if any.
2019 Tax Return
Typically, our individual tax returns in Canada must be submitted by April 30th. Due to the pandemic, the government has extended the filing deadline to June 1st .
If you are required to make a tax payment (normally due April 30th), you now have an interest-free extension until September 1st.
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
While this is for businesses that laid off people, it may help you if you were working for a company that qualifies. The idea is for the employer to hire back laid off employees, with the Government covering 75% of the wages.
Hydro Electricity Price Reduction
The Government of Ontario has put in place revised Hydro pricing from March 24th to May 7th.
The new pricing essentially locks in the ‘off-peak’ cost of 10.1 ¢/kWh for electricity usage all day everyday.
This means that if you are now using a lot of electricity during the regular ‘on-peak’ hours (7am-11AM or 5PM-7PM weekdays), you are paying about half what you would have normally paid. Just be careful not to get into a habit of overusing electricity during those time periods, as it won’t be in place indefinitely.
If you live in another province, it’s worth looking into what your province is doing. For example, in British Columbia, “Qualifying households will receive a credit of three times their average monthly bill over the past year to help cover their electricity costs.”
RRIF’s – for Seniors
RRIF’s minimum withdrawals have been reduced by 25% for 2020. If you don’t need all of the money you would normally be required to withdraw from your RRIF, you may save the tax burden by not withdrawing that portion.
GAINS – for Seniors
GAINS monthly payouts for April to September have automatically been doubled. Therefore, if you are a low-income senior collecting GAINS, you may be able to collect double the regular amount.
Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) – for Students & Recent Graduates
This benefit is for Post-secondary students and recent grads who don’t qualify for CERB or EI. If you are unable to find a full-time job, or are unable to work because of the pandemic, you may be eligible for $1,250 monthly from May to August. If you have dependents or permanent disabilities, the amount is $1,750. Unlike CERB, as of the publishing of this post, the process to apply for this benefit is not yet in place. Please watch out for more news about it.
Canada Summer Jobs Program – for Students
While this one is also for business, it directly impacts students hunting for summer jobs. The government will now pay for up to 100% of wages. Other changes to the program include allowing businesses to hire students part time, the end date is extended until the end of February 2021, and the job activities can be adapted to support essential services.
Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) – for Students
Students that are looking for work can apply for a national service position likely working in essential covid-19 fighting services. This may qualify them to earn up to $5000 for their post secondary education this fall. Check out the Government’s ‘I Want to Help’ platform for more details.
Other Benefits for Students
- Student loan repayment deferral – If you have a student loan, you don’t have to make payments until September 30th. While you still have to pay the loan back, there is no interest accrued during this time period.
- Additional Student Programs – There are also other programs being created to help with student employment opportunities, skill development and others, enhanced student assistance programs for fall 2020, and other programs.
Others Benefits, Programs and Payments
- GST/HST credit payments – If you qualified for this credit payment, on April 9th you should have received double the regular amount.
- Canadian’s abroad – If you’re trying to return to Canada during this crisis, you may be eligible for an emergency repayable loan of up to $5000 to help pay for flights.
- Indigenous people – may be eligible for additional support over and above those already mentioned.
- People living in emergency situations – If you don’t have enough money for basics like shelter and food, you may be eligible for emergency assistance.
- Self employed people – may be eligible for deferral of HST payments.
- Property tax payments – many cities have extended payment deadlines.
- Canada Child Benefit (CCB) – If you qualified for this benefit payment, you will receive up to $300 extra per child with your regular May payment.
- Child-care for essential workers – Many cities are providing child-care for essential service workers at no cost.
- Child-care centre payments and spots –The Ontario Government has outlawed centres from charging fees while they are closed. You also cannot ‘lose your child-care space’ for not paying fees while they are closed.
I know I didn’t list them all, but please let me know if there were any other important ones you think we should cover. Below is a link to a lot of the Government announcements and news articles pertaining to everything mentioned here. You know, in case you have some extra time on your hands…
Thanks for reading!
As always, feel free to email me or leave a comment on my blog page with any feedback.
Stay safe and healthy!