While the vaccine roll-out signals the light at the end of the tunnel, COVID-19 continues to spread across the country and Canadians continue to find themselves out of work or dealing with decreased income due to the pandemic. Fortunately, the federal government has announced a continuing series of measures to help citizens make ends meet in this stressful time. Whether you’re a parent staying home to care for your children, a freelancer dealing with a reduced client base, or have been laid-off and are having trouble paying your student loans, there is a benefit or financial relief program available. Here are the top emergency financial relief programs:
If You Lost Your Job – Employment Insurance
If you lost your job through no fault of your own, there’s a good chance that you qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits.
Do I qualify for EI and how to apply?
You may be entitled to EI regular benefits if you:
- Were employed in insurable employment;
- Lost your job through no fault of your own;
- Have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;
- Have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours (120 hours) in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter;
- Are “ready, willing and capable of working each day;”
- Are actively looking for work (make sure to keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them).
You can apply on the Government of Canada’s Employment Insurance website.
If You’ve Lost Income – Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)
Replacing the popular Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) is available for the millions of Canadians who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. This benefit is available to a wide variety of Canadians, from wage earners to contractors and small business owners. If you’ve lost income and do not qualify for Employment Insurance regular benefits, CRB is for you.
- Workers who must stop working due to COVID19, or workers who had a 50% reduction in their average weekly income compared to the previous year due to COVID-19
- Workers who did not apply for or receive the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, short-term disability benefits, Employment Insurance benefiots, or Quebec Parental Insurance Plan benefits
- Workers who resident in and are present in Canada
- Workers who are at least 15 years old and have a social insurance number (SIN).
- Workers who earned at least $5,000 in 2019, 2020, or in the 12 months before the date you applied from either employment income, self-employment income, or maternity and parental benefits
- Workers who have not quit their job or reduced hours voluntarily after September 20th, 2020.
- Workers who were seeking work during the application period and who have not turned down reasonable work during the application period
If Your Working Hours Have Been Reduced – EI Work Sharing Program Extension
If you are still working but your hours have been cut and you meet the eligibility requirements for employment insurance, your employer may apply for the Work Sharing Program. It was designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs due to a temporary reduction in business beyond their control. It provides income support to employees eligible for employment insurance benefits who work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers.
How Long Can We Work Under the EI Work Sharing Program?
Due to COVID-19, the Work Sharing Program has been extended from a maximum of 38 weeks up to 76 weeks. Learn more about the Work Sharing Program.
If You Are Sick or Self Isolating Due to COVID-19 — Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)
If you are unable to work because you are sick due to COVID-19, or if you’ve been ordered to self-isolate, or if you have an underlying health condition that puts you at a greater risk of getting COVID-19, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) allows you to receive $450 after taxes per 1-week application period.
If You Have Children – Canada Child Benefit Top-Up
The estimated 3.5 million families with children who regularly receive the Canada Child Benefit will be able to put a little more cash in their pockets this year.
If You Can’t Work Because You are Caring for Your Children — Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit
For employed and self-employed Canadians who can’t work because they must provide care for their child under 12 years old, or another family member who needs care, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) is there for you. This benefit should be used if you must care for your child due to the closure of their school, regular program, or facility. You can apply for the CRBC in 1-week periods and you are eligible to receive $450 after tax.
If You Have a Mortgage – Deferred Mortgage Payments
If the benefits above aren’t adding up for you, and you’ve bought a house in Canada, you might be worried about how you’re going to make your mortgage payments. Several of Canada’s biggest mortgage lenders have indicated via social media that they will allow their borrowers to defer their mortgage payments, or to “skip a payment.” These options are available on mortgages and other types of loans and credit card payments as well.
How Do I Apply to Skip a Payment or Defer My Mortgage Payment?
With encouragement from the federal government, most lenders have indicated that deferrals will be granted on a case-by-case basis. If you aren’t sure you will be able to make your next mortgage payment, contact your lender directly to discuss a deferral. Make sure you fully understand how the change will affect your future interest payments, any potential penalties you could occur and impact on your credit rating. Learn more about mortgage payment deferrals.
If You Are a Small Business Owner – Small Business Loans
If you have experienced lost revenues due to COVID-19 but still have on-going bills like rent, taxes, and wages, the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) can provide interest-free, partially forgivable loans up to $60,000. You can apply for their loans through your local bank and credit union until March 31st, 2021.
If You Are a Small Business Owner Forced to Close due to a Public Health Order — Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy
If your business has been significantly restricted by a mandatory public health order, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) provides a rent and mortgage subsidy of up to 65% of qualifying expenses. If you have been required to close your business during a lockdown, you’ll receive an extra 25% in support.
The Last Word
The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. The Canadian government understands that the measures they’ve put in place to limit the spread of the virus have caused financial hardship for businesses and workers. The feds have made it clear that they are prepared to introduce additional measures in the future to reduce the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on Canadians. Keep checking back regularly for updates since the government programs outlined above are actively evolving and may change on short notice.
If you can’t make ends meet, you may need to tap into your emergency fund, take out a personal loan, or use a low-interest credit card. Another option to tide you over KOHO’s Early Payroll feature, which lets you access up to $100 of your paycheque three days early, to help you access enough cash to stay afloat during these trying times. Read about How to Survive a Financial Crisis for more expert advice.