As we all adjust to living under quarantine several things hold true: 1) kids hate being cooped up at home, and 2) rent and mortgage payments do not stop. Fortunately the different levels of our government are making improvements to help out those who have been affected by COVID-19. In this post we will outline benefits you may qualify for and some changes that might help you out day-to-day.
Employment and Work
You qualify for regular Employment Insurance (EI) if you have been laid off through no fault of your own. In other words, this applies if you were let go for a reason other than misconduct, or you quit voluntarily because you felt it was the only reasonable option. You are encouraged to apply as soon as possible after losing your job, regardless of the reason. However, keep in mind that you or your employer will eventually need to submit your Record of Employment to finalize your application. Typically there is a one-week waiting period before you begin receiving payments but the federal government has waived that condition - temporarily - to help out during these times.
EI benefits can last up to 45 weeks depending on the unemployment rate and how much you've worked in the past year. The current cap on insurable earnings means you can receive up to $573 per week. For more information and to apply, visit the Government of Canada website.
Inability to Work Because of COVID-19
In some circumstances you might not be able to work because of the coronavirus but you don't qualify for EI (or your regular EI payments have expired). This is where the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) comes in. Perhaps you are a parent who had to stop working in order to look after your kids in quarantine, or you are a self-employed general contractor who now faces a very empty schedule due to cancellations; the CERB can offer you $2000 per month for up to 4 months. The Canadian government has taken a "pay now, ask questions later" approach to distributing the CERB, which means you can expect to get money deposited into your bank account rather quickly. However, the CRA will do an audit in the future to ensure that no mistakes were made - such as payments to ineligible people. The CERB has strict policies regarding the income you can continue to make while receiving the benefit so it is best to treat the payments as a safety net in case the government ends up knocking on your door and demanding some of the money back.
Click here to visit the CERB application page.
Note: you cannot receive CERB and EI payments at the same time and the government warns against applying to both programs. If you notice additional deposits into your bank account be prepared to return some of that money.
Other Benefits and Programs
The federal government has made changes to some other benefit programs as well. Here is an overview, with more information available in this COVID-19 notice.
- Canada Child Benefit: extra $300 per child for the month of May
- Canada Pension Plan Retirement and Disability, or Old Age Security: online applications available for these benefits, and no documentation required at this time
- Canada Student and Apprentice Loans: no payments required until September 30, 2020, and no interest will be accrued on loans
Banking, Money and Taxes
Mortgage and Credit Card Payments
The Big Five are stepping in and offering relief for mortgage, credit card, and loans/line of credit payments. Many smaller lenders are doing the same, so check with your company if you have been impacted and need help. However, it is very important to understand that deferring a payment come with a cost: interest will continue to accumulate on your balance and your credit score may be negatively impacted. Therefore, it is best to keep making your regular payments if you can afford to do so.
Automotive Payments and Warranty
Some car manufacturers have implemented programs to help clients who are leasing or financing vehicles with their in-house companies or partners. There may also be extensions to warranty coverage and free services, so check with your marque to get the latest information.
The deadline to file taxes for individuals has been pushed back to June 1, 2020, and income tax payments can be deferred until August 31, 2020.
Property taxes are handled at the municipal level so assistance programs differ. For example, the City of Toronto has extended the April 1 deadline to June 1 for everyone. Richmond Hill is offering deferrals for seniors and low income disabled persons.
Ontario has suspended issuing new eviction orders and current eviction orders will not be enforced. The Province is encouraging landlords to find fair solutions along with their tenants if they cannot make payment. In-person services at the Landlord and Tenant Board are closed, but many applications can be filed online. More information is available on the Ontario renting changes website.
The Government of Ontario has enacted an Emergency Order to temporarily change the price of electricity in order to control costs as many people remain at home. Beginning on March 24 and lasting 45 days (until further notice) the price of electricity will be 10.1 ¢/kWh regardless of the time of day. CTV News has reported that the Ontario Energy Board will use older winter rates once the Emergency Order expires.
Driver's Licences and Health Cards
To reduce the need for vists to ServiceOntario locations, the Province has extended expiration dates for driver's licences, licence plate stickers, and many other products as well. Health cards also do not need to be renewed.
From all of us at Benson Mortgages, we hope you and your loved ones stay safe. We are open and happy to help if you have any questions, so feel free to give us a call!