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COVID-19 Relief Resources - Federal Assistance

Fasken
Reading Time 11 minute read

The aim of this document is to provide a comprehensive overview of resources available from both the federal government and non-government entities that are federal or national in scope and are available to individuals who are meeting financial hardship due to COVID-19.

This list is only current as of August 14th, 2020.

COVID-19 Federal Government Relief

1. Canada Child Benefit

The Canada Child Benefit ("CCB") is a pre-existing program that provides tax-free monthly payments to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. The Canada Revenue Agency (the "CRA") will provide an increase in the annual CCB of up to a maximum of $300 per child for the 2019-2020 benefit year which will vary depending on the applicants income tax returns for 2018. Families that are entitled to receive the CCB in April 2020 and still have an eligible child in their care in May 2020 will receive up to a maximum of $300 extra per child as part of their regular May 2020 payment. This is a one-time increase to the May 2020 CCB payment for the 2019-2020 benefit year (i.e. July 2019 to June 2020). If a family has already applied for or received the annual CCB, they do not need to reapply.

Due to the extended tax filing date, eligible Canadians, who are presently receiving the CCB payments, will continue to receive these payments until the end of September 2020. Payment amounts will be based on information from 2018 tax return(s) if your 2019 tax return has not been assessed, and the CRA has not had time to calculate benefits and/or credits for the July to September 2020 payment.

You are still required to file your 2019 income tax return. If the CRA is unable to assess your return by early September 2020, your estimated benefits and/or credits will stop in October 2020 and you will have to repay the estimated amounts that were issued to you starting in July 2020.

2.  GST/HST Credit Payment

The GST/HST Credit is a tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset all or part of the GST or HST that they pay. It may also include payments from provincial and territorial programs. The CRA will provide a one-time supplementary payment that doubles the maximum GST/HST payment amounts beginning on April 9, 2020. The average increase will be $400 for individuals and $600 for couples. To be eligible, a person must meet one of the following criteria:

  • be 19 years of age;
  • have (or have had) a common law partner or spouse; or
  • are (or was) a parent and live (or lived with) your child.

Parents in a shared custody situation may be eligible for half of the GST/HST credit for that child. Eligible recipients will receive the payment automatically if a 2018 tax return has been filed.

Due to the extended tax filing date, it was announced that eligible Canadians, who are presently receiving the GST/HST credit, will continue to receive these payments until the end of September 2020.

3. Individual Income Tax Filing and Payment Extensions

The CRA is further extending the payment due date for 2019 individual tax returns and 2019 or 2020 corporation, or trust returns, as well as for instalment payments, from September 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020. For individuals who are self-employed, penalties (including late-filing penalties) and interest will not be applied if returns are filed and payments are made by September 30, 2020. This also applies to the June 15 and September 15, 2020 instalment payments for those who have to pay by instalments. 

4. Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Government of Canada is providing temporary income support of $500 a week for up to 24 weeks for individuals that have stopped working because of COVID-19. This reflects the recent 8 week extension announced on June 16th, 2020. The benefit is available for the period from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020. Please note that you can only apply for the CERB through either Service Canada or the CRA – not both. Benefits will start within 10 days of submitting an application, or sooner if applicants apply online.

To be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, you must:

  • be residing in Canada and be at least 15 years old;
  • have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance ("EI") Regular or Sickness benefits or have exhausted EI Regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020;
  • have had an income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of the application; and
  • not have quit your job voluntarily.

When submitting your first claim, you cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the four-week benefit period of your claim. When submitting subsequent claims, you cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income for the entire four-week benefit period of your new claim.

5. Changes to Employment Insurance

The Government of Canada has implemented some changes to EI eligibility.

The typical eligibility requirements for EI can be found at this link.

The changes to eligibility include:

  • A doctor's note is no long required for EI claims beginning on March 15, 2020.
  • Applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible after discontinuing employment. They do not need to wait to receive a record of employment.
  • If EI eligibility occurred on or after March 15, 2020, EI Regular and Sickness benefits are automatically delivered as part of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (individuals do not need to apply to both).
  • If EI eligibility occurred prior to March 15, 2020 for EI Regular and Sickness Benefits, or if an individual is applying for EI Maternity, Parental, Fishing, Compassionate Care and Family Caregiver Benefits, the EI process remains the same.
  • For more information, you can call the Employment Insurance Telephone Information Service, which is an automated telephone service that provides recorded general information on EI. It is available 24/7 at the numbers below.
  • If you are eligible for a new EI claim starting March 15, 2020 or after, your EI Regular and Sickness benefits will be delivered as part of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (see above). Find answers to questions about the benefit by calling 1 (833) 966-2099.
  • If you were eligible for EI before March 15, 2020 or you are applying for EI Maternity, Parental, Fishing, Compassionate Care or Family Caregiver Benefits, you should contact the EI call centre at 1 (800) 206-7218.

If you have an urgent request, and must  speak to an EI representative, you will need your SIN and access code (which you will find on the benefit statement that is mailed to you after you apply for EI benefits). The hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time, Monday to Friday at the numbers below:

  • Toll-Free: 1-800-206-7218
  • TTY: 1-800-529-3742

6.  Enhancing the Reaching Home Initiative

Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy is a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness across Canada. This program provides funding to urban, Indigenous, rural and remote communities to help them address local homelessness needs.

Through the COVID-19 economic response plan, the federal government has provided an additional $157.5 million to the Reaching Home initiative.

For more information, please contact your local Reaching Home community. To find a Reaching Home community, please visit the list of programs on the Government of Canada website.

7. Reduced Minimum Withdrawals for RRIFs

The Federal Government has reduced the minimum withdrawal amount from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25 per cent for 2020. This measure also applies to individuals receiving variable benefit payments from a defined contribution registered pension plan (RPP) and a pooled registered pension plan (PRPP).

8.  Immediate and Essential Services Through the New Horizons for Seniors Program

The New Horizons for Seniors Program (the "NHSP") provides grants and contributions funding for projects that make a difference in the lives of seniors and in their communities. Service Canada is offering 2019-2020 NHSP community-based recipients the flexibility to use their approved funding for activity expenditures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of the nature of the originally-approved project.

Activities can start immediately and can include:

  • supporting seniors in staying connected with their community and family by providing electronic devices, virtual activities and remote tutorials;
  • supporting the delivery of food and medication to self-isolated seniors at home;
  • assisting seniors to undertake essential activities, such as visits to the doctor;
  • hiring staff to replace a loss of a senior volunteer due to the outbreak; and
  • providing information to seniors regarding how to care for themselves during the pandemic.

You can contact an approved NHSP funding representative if your project is affected or you are interested in participating. To view approved projects, please see the links below:

9. Suspended Repayment and Interest on Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans

The Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario provided a suspension of student loan repayments and interest from March 30, 2020 until September 30, 2020. If your loan was issued by NL, NB, ON, SK or BC, this automatic suspension applies to both the federal and provincial portions of student loans, as they are administered by the National Student Loan Services Centre. If your loan was issued by PEI, NS, AB or MB, the automatic suspension only applies to your Canada Student Loan (however, those provinces may already have announced similar measures for the provincial portion of your loan). 

Anyone registered for pre-authorized debit does not have to do anything. The pre-authorized payments will automatically stop.

Anyone making payments by cheque or other means is not required to make payments during the suspension period.

Individuals can continue making payments if they wish.  

10. Accessing Service Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Service Canada has begun the gradual and safe reopening of in-person locations across the country. Find out if your local Service Canada is open by clicking this link. Service Canada clients can apply for critical services online. A list of programs and services is available at this link. Due to physical distancing, space is limited. Please make a request for an appointment by filling out the service request form. A Service Canada officer will call you back within 2 business days.

Other requests may be made through the Service Canada online service request form.

Service Canada call centre volumes are expected to be high for the foreseeable future. The Service Canada call centre can be reached at:

  • 1 (800) 622-6232
  • TTY: 1 (800) 926-9105

Effective March 20, 2020, Service Canada is only accepting SIN applications submitted by mail. Service Canada is only responding to critical service enquiries at this time.

11. Finding Federal Financial Help During COVID-19

To find information about additional financial help available during COVID-19 please visit https://covid-benefits.alpha.canada.ca/en/start . Upon answering questions related to identifying your needs, you will be shown a list of benefits that may help in your current situation.

 

 

COVID-19 Federal Non-Government Relief

1. Mortgage Support: Case-by-Case Basis 

Canada's largest banks are offering mortgage payment relief to their customers on a case-by-case basis. COVID-related mortgage deferrals are available for an indefinite period and customers do not face a deadline for having to seek relief. Individuals in need of such assistance should contact their banks. Customers should understand that this is not mortgage forgiveness and that payments will need to be made eventually and interest will continue to accumulate during the deferral period.

2.  Mortgage Support: CMHC-Insured Mortgages

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation ("CMHC") is allowing lenders to offer deferred payments for insured mortgages. Through this program, homeowners may be able to obtain up to six months payment deferral. To be eligible for this relief, the mortgage must be CMHC-insured. The mortgage deferral agreement does not cancel, erase or eliminate the amount owed on your mortgage. To inquire about eligibility, contact your bank or your mortgage professional. You can apply at any time during this outbreak.

3. Kids Help Phone

Kids Help Phone provides counselling confidential services over the phone, by text and through web chat for persons between ages 5 and 20. The organization has also posted articles designed to aid youth in managing their mental health through the COVID-19 pandemic. Services are available 24/7.

4.  Women's Shelters and Sexual Assault Centres

The Government of Canada is providing $40 million to Women and Gender Equality Canada ("WAGE"), up to $30 million of which will address immediate needs of shelters and sexual assault centres. WAGE is working with provincial and territorial counterparts and stakeholders to identify women's shelters and sexual assault centres in each jurisdiction that will be eligible for funding. For federal, provincial and territorial resources for persons experiencing gender-based violence please see the link above for the status of women in Canada webpage created by the federal government.

5. United Way Canada: Supporting the Delivery of Items and Personal Outreach for Seniors

The federal government is providing $9 million through United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors, including the delivery of items and personal outreach.

Please contact your local United Way for more information. To find your local United Way, please visit the link above.

6. Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention provides a list of crisis centres across the country. Contact and location information for the crisis centres is included in this list. The availability of a particular crisis centre is variable, but the list is available 24/7.

7. Car Payment Deferral and Warranty Extensions 

Certain automotive companies have created or are considering deferrals for customers impacted by COVID-19. Eligibility will vary. The following list is not exhaustive; customers should contact their car dealership to find out which programs are available to them:

  • Hyundai has extended some warranties and procured payment deferral options for customers impacted by COVID-19.
  • Volkswagen has encouraged customers looking to defer a lease or finance payment to email a request to info@vwfinance.ca and to include the customer's name and VIN in the email.