COVID-19

The Capital Guide to COVID-19 Benefits and Assistance

COVID-19 has thrown a million Canadians out of work and counting. If you're among them, here's where to go for a hand up.

By Sean Craig
April 10, 2020
COVID-19

The Capital Guide to COVID-19 Benefits and Assistance

COVID-19 has thrown a million Canadians out of work and counting. If you're among them, here's where to go for a hand up.

By Sean Craig
Apr 10, 2020
COVID-19

The Capital Guide to COVID-19 Benefits and Assistance

COVID-19 has thrown a million Canadians out of work and counting. If you're among them, here's where to go for a hand up.

By Sean Craig
April 10, 2020
The Capital Guide to COVID-19 Benefits and Assistance
A lone man on a bench overlooks a now-empty harbour that in non-pandemic conditions typically ranks as one of the busiest waterways in Canada (James MacDonald for The Capital).

Canada lost over a million jobs in March, and the unemployment rate climbed to 7.8 per cent, according to Statistics Canada data released Thursday. B.C.’s unemployment rate swelled to 7.2 per cent, as the province lost 132,000 jobs.

The Greater Victoria area, which has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, was not spared, as the jobless rate climbed to 4.6 per cent, from 3.4 per cent in February. “I do believe we're going to see tougher numbers coming,” said Finance Minister Carole James, at a press conference.

As an unprecedented number of people in BC and the Capital region are experiencing a loss of work and financial uncertainty, a patchwork of federal and provincial programs have been rolled out to help struggling people and businesses. The Capital has compiled a guide to those programs, and where you can apply for them, below.


Financial assistance for individuals

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

What is it?
A $2,000 federal payment once a month for up to four months. The amount is subject to income tax.

Who is eligible?
If you were laid off or are being prevented from working because of the pandemic, if you have contracted COVID-19, or if you’re still working but not being paid. If you are self-employed, it counts for you, too. You must have made at least $5,000 in 2019 or the 12 month period before your application. For your first application, you must expect to have no income for at least two consecutive weeks during the first month of your application period. For subsequent applications, you should expect to have no income at all. You must apply by December 2, and the benefit is available for the period covering March 15 to October 3.


BC Emergency Benefit for Workers

What is it?
A one time $1,000 payment from the provincial government. The program isn’t available yet, but is expected to be rolled out in May.

Who is eligible?
People who have lost income as a result of the pandemic.

BC Hydro deferral and grant programs

What is it?
BC Hydro has two programs to help people cope with the pandemic: the COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program allows you to defer payments on your utility bills without penalty while the Customer Crisis Fund offers grants of up to $600 to help with bill payment.

Who is eligible? 
The Customer Assistance Program is open to anyone who has lost work or income, is sick with COVID-19 or quarantined, is caring for a family member sick with COVID-19, or who has had to take on additional childcare responsibilities due to school closures. The Customer Crisis fund is intended for BC Hydro customers who are facing disconnection of their services and who have experienced a major life event in the last 12 months that has caused financial hardship.

ICBC Car insurance payment deferral

What is it?
A 90 day, penalty free deferral of insurance payments for ICBC customers on monthly payment plans.

Who is eligible?
Anyone on a monthly payment plan with ICBC who has financial challenges as a result of the pandemic.

Federal Income Tax filing extension

What is it?
The due date for filing your 2019 individual tax return has been deferred to June 1, 2020.

Who is eligible?
Anyone filing an individual tax return with the federal government.

For renters

Temporary Rental Supplement Program

What is it?
A provincial rent supplement of up to $500 that is paid to your landlord.

Who is eligible?
Singles or couples without dependents with a household income below $74,150 or households with dependents that have an income below $113,040. The household must be eligible for or receiving EI or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and have lost at least 25 per cent of monthly employment income as a result of COVID-19. Rent must be at least 30 per cent of current household income.


Moratorium on evictions and rent increases

What is it?
The province has issued orders that bar landlords from evicting tenants, except for in extreme cases where personal safety is involved. Rent increases have also been suspended.

Who is eligible?
All renters in British Columbia


For property owners and landlords

COVID-19 Mortgage Payment Deferral program

What is it?
A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation program allowing lenders to grant homeowners a deferral on mortgage payments for up to 6 months. It does not impact your property taxes or insurance payments, which will continue. 

Who is eligible?
Anyone who is in jeopardy of not being able to make their mortgage payment during the pandemic. You must contact your individual financial institution to determine if your situation can be approved for the program.


Temporary Rental Supplement Program

What is it?
A provincial rent supplement of up to $500 that is applied for by your tenant and paid to you.

Who is eligible?
Low to medium income renters who have lost income as a result of the pandemic. If your tenant is concerned about their ability to pay rent, advise them of the program.

For People With Student Loans

Deferral of Canada Student Loan repayments

What is it?
A six-month, interest-free moratorium has been placed on Canada Student Loans for all borrowers.

Who is eligible?
All borrowers of Canada Student Loans. The moratorium is automatic and will run from March 30 to September 30. You will not be charged for any loan payments in that time period, though you can still make payments if you wish to through your National Student Loans Service Centre account.


Deferral of StudentAid BC repayments

What is it?
A six-month, interest-free moratorium has been placed on provincial student loans for all borrowers.

Who is eligible?
All borrowers from StudentAid BC. The moratorium is automatic and will run from March 30 to September 30. You will not be charged for any loan payments in that time period.

For Seniors

Reduced minimum withdrawal from RRIFs

What is it?
The federal government has lowered the minimum amount that must be withdrawn from registered retirement income funds to 25 per cent for 2020. This also applies to defined contribution registered pension plans or pooled registered pension plans.

Who is eligible?
Anyone who has an RRIF.

For Businesses

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

What is it?
A federal subsidy of 75 per cent of employee wages for up to 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15.

Who is eligible?
Any employer — individuals, corporations, partnerships, nonprofits and charities — that saw a 15 per cent or more drop in revenue in March and expects a 30 per cent or more drop in the following months.


Work-Sharing extension

What is it?
The federal government has extended Service Canada’s Work-Sharing program from 38 weeks to 76 weeks. The program helps companies avoid layoffs by allowing employers to reduce work hours and employees to receive a percentage of their lost income from Service Canada. The extension of effective as of March 15 and lasts for one year.

Who is eligible?
Private or publicly held companies, or non-profits, that have been in business for at least one year who can demonstrate a decrease in business activity of at least 10 per cent.

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Canada Emergency Business Account

What is it?
A federal program issuing interest free loans for businesses up to $40,000.

Who is eligible?
Small businesses and nonprofits that had between $50,000 to $1 million in payroll in 2019. Applications can be made through your bank or credit union.


Business Credit Availability Program

What is it?
A $65 billion federal program, led by Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada, which will provide direct lending to businesses at market rates.

Who is eligible? 
Companies who can demonstrate viable business models and whose access to financing has been restricted during the current market turmoil. Applications can be made through your bank or credit union.


Canada Summer Jobs payment expansion

What is it?
The federal Canada Summer Jobs program will now cover 100 per cent of the BC minimum hourly wage for each employee, and employers can hire part-time staff through the program.

Who is eligible?
Small businesses, nonprofits and public sector bodies hiring up for summer employment can use the program to hire people aged 15 to 30. However, applications are already closed and are expected to be approved in May. The federal government is reviewing the option to reopen the program to organizations offering essential services.


Income tax
and GST deferral

What is it?
Businesses can defer filing their income taxes for the current year to June 1 and can defer payment until September 1. The CRA has also granted businesses the ability to defer GST payments and remittances owed on or after March 27 and before June 2020 to the end of June.

Who is eligible?
All businesses.


Credit line and deferral for farmers and agri-food companies

What is it?
The federal government has made $5 billion available to Farm Credit Canada, allowing up to six months in deferrals of principal and interest payments for existing loans, or up to 12 months for just principal payments. Businesses can also apply for an additional credit line up to $500,000.

Who is eligible?
Farmers, food producers, agribusinesses, and food processors.


Provincial tax relief

What is it?
The provincial government has introduced a suite of tax relief measures for businesses. The PST exemption for sweetened carbonated beverages and new registration requirements for Canadian sellers of goods, software and telecommunications introduced in Budget 2020 have been put on hold. The carbon tax rate has also been put on hold, as have plans to increase the rate in line with the federal carbon backstop. School tax rates on commercial properties will be cut in half for the 2020 tax year.

Who is eligible?
Businesses who file or pay taxes in British Columbia.

sean@capnews.ca