COVID-19 Financial Relief and Other Initiatives to Support Individuals and Businesses
A lot of Canadians are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Federal Government has responded with several economic measures to support individuals and businesses. Other organizations including financial institutions have stepped up as well to provide resources to those who are struggling.
KD has compiled a list of all available support and help that you as an individual or as a business owner can access during these hard times.
We have also included measures that the Alberta Government has announced to help Alberta residents and businesses who are struggling during at this time.
Important note: As the situation continues to evolve, there will be changes and new measures that will be added to this list so please check back to this list regularly.
Initiatives to Support Individuals and Families:
1. Canada Child Benefit Increase – The Federal Government announced that they will be providing an extra $300 per child through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for 2019-2020. The average family will receive $550 more due to this increase. The increased benefit will be delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment in May 2020. Note that you do not need to re-apply if you already receive the CCB. If you do not receive the CCB yet, you can apply here: Apply for the Canada Child Benefit
2. Special Goods and Services Tax Credit Payment – The Government is providing a one-time special payment through the Goods and Services Tax Credit for low and modest income families. This will be received by early May 2020. The average additional benefit will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. Note that you do not need to apply for this payment. You will get it automatically if you are eligible. For more information: Goods and Services Tax credit
3. More time to file your income tax return and pay for any tax amount owing – For individuals (other than trusts), the filing due date has been deferred until June 1, 2020. Any 2019 taxes owing can be paid until September 30, 2020 (new update July 17,2020). Note: If you expect to receive benefits under the GST credit or the Canada Child Benefit, please file your tax return as soon as possible to ensure that your entitlements are properly determined.
4. Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) – The Government will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 6 months (updated June 16, 2020) for workers who must stop working due to the COVID-19 outbreak and do not have access to paid leave or other income support, workers who are sick/quarantined/taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick/need additional care because of school and daycare closures, employed workers who are not being paid and wage earners and self-employed individuals who are not eligible for Employment Insurance. You can now apply for the CERB online or by calling an automated phone line. More information on our updated blog: CERB Blog- Updated
5. Mortgage support – Canadian banks are offering mortgage payment relief to their customers through deferred mortgage payments. Note that this is not mortgage forgiveness. Mortgage deferral means that payments are skipped for a defined period of time during which interest which would otherwise be part of the deferred payments is added to the outstanding balance of the mortgage. The added interest is incorporated into the monthly payment when payments resume at the end of the deferral period. For more information: Mortgage Deferral for Canadians due to COVID-19 (BLOG)
6. Improved access to Employment Insurance sickness benefit – The Government announced that it will waive, for a minimum of six months, the mandatory one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits for workers in imposed quarantine or who have been directed to self-isolate, as announced on March 11. The requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefit has also been waived. You can apply for EI sickness benefits here: Apply for EI sickness benefits
7. Reduced minimum withdrawals for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) – There will be a 25% reduction to the requirement minimum withdrawals from RRIFs for 2020.
8. Repayment pause on Canada Student Loans and Alberta Student Loans – Starting March 30, there will be a 6-month pause on the repayment of Canada Student Loans and Alberta Student Loans for all student loan borrowers. No payment will be required and no interest will be accrued during this 6-month period. For more information: Repayment pause on Canada Student Loan and Alberta Student Loan
9. Alberta’s Emergency Isolation Support – This program is now CLOSED. This program provided funds to over 79,596 eligible Albertans since it launched for a total of approximately $91.7 million.
10. Alberta’s Utility Payment Deferral – If you are experiencing financial hardships as a direct result of the COIVD-19 pandemic, you can defer your electricity and natural gas bill payments for 90 days regardless of the service provider. Call your utility provider directly to arrange your payment deferral.
11. Support from ATB and Alberta Credit Unions – If you are a personal banking customer, you may be able to apply for a deferral on your loans, lines of credit and mortgages (as mentioned above) for up to 6 months. Credit union members will also have access to programs and solutions to help with your loan payments and short-term cash flow requirements during these difficult times.
12. Alberta’s Education Property Tax Freeze – The Alberta Government has announced that it has frozen the residential education property tax rates at last year’s level.
13. Temporary Changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program - The changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program will help small businesses hire and keep workers they need to continue to deliver essential services. Temporary changes include an increase to the wage subsidy so that employers can also receive up to 100% of the provincial or territorial minimum hourly wage for each employee, extension to the end date for employment to February 28, 2021, allowing employers to adapt to support essential services and allowing employers to hire staff on a part-time basis.
14. Canada Emergency Student Benefit: This benefit will provide support to students and new graduates who are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. This will provide $1,250 per month to eligible students or $1,750 per month for eligible students with dependents or disabilities. Applications to the CESB will start on May 15, 2020. Applicants can go online or call 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. More details here: CESB: How to apply
15. Canada Student Service Grant: This grant will provide up to $5,000 for the education (in the fall) of students who choose to do national service and serve their communities.
16. Other Initiatives for Students: The Federal Government also announced that it will:
- create an additional 76,000 jobs in sectors that need help or are on the front line
- double the Canada Student Grants to eligible full-time students up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21
- broaden eligibility for student financial assistance by moving the expected student's and spouse's contributions in 2020-21
- raise the maximum weekly amount of the Canada Student Loans Program to a maximum of $350 in 2020-21 from $210
- increase existing distinctions-based support for First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nation students
- extend expiring federal graduate research scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships and supplement existing federal research grants.
17. Top-ups for Essential Workers: The Federal Government just announced it will provide $3 billion in support to increase the wages of low-income essential workers. Each province or territory will determine which workers will be eligible and how much support will be provided.
18. Special One-Time Payment for Seniors: Seniors eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will receive their special one-time, tax-free payment during the week of July 6. Seniors eligible for the OAS pension will receive a payment of $300, and those also eligible for the GIS will receive an additional $200, for a total of $500. Allowance recipients will also receive $500.
19. NEW Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB): The CRB will provide $500 per week up to 26 weeks to self-employed workers not eligible for EI but still need income support from September 27 for 1 year.
20. NEW Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB): The CRSB will provide $500 per week for 2 weeks to workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19 from September 27 for 1 year.
21. NEW Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB): The CRCB will provide $500 per week for 26 weeks per household for individuals who are unable to work for at least 60% of their normally scheduled work within a given week because they must take care of their child under 12 years old or take care of a family member with a disability or a dependent.
22. Changes to EI: Changes to EI were announced including establishing a minimum unemployment rate of 13.1% across Canada and freezing EI premium rate for employees and rate for employers at the 2020 levels.
Initiatives to Support Businesses:
1. Extension to the Work-Sharing Program – The Work Sharing Program is available for workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours because of developments beyond the control of their employers. This program was designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity. This program will provide income support for employees eligible for Employment Insurance. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government announced that it will extend the maximum duration of the Work-Sharing Program from 38 weeks to 76 weeks. More details here: Work Sharing Program
2. Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) – The CEWS is a program that provides a subsidy of 75% of eligible remuneration. This program was initially available for a period of 12 weeks , from March 15 to June 6, 2020. The Government announced an extension of the wage subsidy for an additional 24 weeks. The rules have been modified for the fifth period (July 5 to August 1, 2020) and subsequent periods. Another extension to the CEWS was announced on October 9, 2020. The CEWS is extended until June 2021. More details here: CEWS Extension & Other Updates ; CEWS Updates for Periods 5 to 10
3. Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy - The Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers is a 3-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions they remit to the CRA. The subsidy is equal to 10% of the remuneration you pay from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, up to $1,375 for each eligible employee and to a maximum of $25,000 total per employer. Organizations that do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy may qualify for this 10% wage subsidy. More details here: FAQs - Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers
4. Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) – The Government is providing $10 billion of additional support to small and medium sized businesses through the Business Development Bank (BDC) and Export Development Bank (EDC). BDC and EDC will work with private sector lenders to provide credit solutions for businesses. Businesses seeking support should contact their financial institutions (with whom they have a pre-existing relationship). The financial institution will assess the client’s financial request. More details here: Business Credit Availability Program
Update: The BCAP is extended to June 2021. (August 31, 2020)
The BCAP program also includes the following:
- Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) - The Canada Emergency Business Account is a $25 billion loan program that will provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced. Qualifying organizations will need to demonstrate that they paid between $20,000 to $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019 (Updated April 16, 2020). Repaying the balance of the loan on or before December 31, 2022 will result in loan forgiveness of 25% (up to $10,000). Update: The CEBA application deadline is extended to December 31, 2020 (as of October 9, 2020) . And as of October, 26, 2020, CEBA is now open to businesses using personal banking accounts. More details here: CEBA updates
- New Loan Guarantee for Small and Medium Enterprises– Export Development Bank will guarantee new operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million that financial institutions extend to small and medium enterprises. The program cap for this new loan program will be a total of $20 billion for export sector and domestic companies. Contact your financial institution for more information. More details here: EDC's products and services
- New Co-Lending Program for Small and Medium Enterprises – The Business Development Bank (BDC) will work with financial institutions to co-lend term loans to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements. Eligible businesses may obtain incremental credit amounts of up to $6.25 million. BDC’s portion of this program is up to $5million per loan. The potential lending for this program will be $20 billion. More details here: BDC's Products and Services
5. Increased Credit Available for Farmers – Farm Credit Canada has been allowed an additional $5 billion in lending capacity to producers, agribusinesses and food processors. This will offer increased flexibility to farmers and processors who face financial struggles during this difficult time. More details here: Farm Credit Canada COVID-19 Support
6. Deferral for paying income taxes for businesses – All businesses will be allowed to defer the payment until after August 31, 2020, of any income tax amounts that become owing after March 18 and before September 20, 2020. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.
7. Deferral of Sales Tax Remittance and Customs Duty Payments – Businesses are allowed, including self-employed individuals, to defer until June 30, 2020 payments of the Goods and Services Tax / Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST), as well as customs duties owing on their imports. This deferral will apply to GST/HST remittances for the February, March and April 2020 reporting periods for monthly filers; the January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020 reporting period for quarterly filers and for annual filers, the amounts collected and owing for their previous fiscal year and installments of GST/HST in respect of the filer’s current fiscal year. For GST and customs duty payments for imported goods, deferral will include amounts for March, April and May.
8. Alberta’s Corporate Income Tax Changes – Corporate income tax balances and installment payments due between March 18, 2020 and August 31, 2020 are deferred until August 31, 2020.
9. Alberta’s Non-residential Education Property Tax – Collection of non-residential education property tax for businesses will be deferred for 6 months. Note that deferred amounts are to be repaid in future tax years so if a business is capable of paying their taxes in full, they are encouraged to do so.
10. Alberta’s Workers Compensation Board Premium Payment Deferral – Small, medium and large private sector employers can defer their WCB premium payments until 2021. For small and medium businesses, the Alberta Government will cover 50% of the 2020 premium when it is due in 2021. For larger employers will have their 2020 WCB premium payments deferred until 2021. More information here: Premium relief for employers
11. Utility Payment Deferral for Alberta Businesses – Residential, farm and small commercial customers can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for the next 90 days. Alberta businesses can contact their service provider directly to arrange the payment deferral.
12. Alberta Tourism Levy Deferral – Hotels and other lodging providers can delay paying the tourism levy until August 31 for amounts due on or after March 27, 2020. More details here: Tourism Levy Deferral
13. Support from ATB Financial and Credit Unions for Alberta Businesses – Business members should contact their credit unions directly to work out a plan specific to their situation. ATB Financial’s small business customers can apply for payment deferral on loans and lines of credit for up to 6 months and can also request for additional working capital. Other ATB business and agriculture customers can also request for support on a case to case basis.
14. Wage Boost for Essential Workers: The Federal Government announced a new measure to cost-share a temporary top up to the salaries of low-income essential workers that the provinces and territories have deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19. Through this new transfer, provinces and territories will be able to provide low-income essential workers who earn less than $2,500 per month with a top up.
15. Relief for Federally Regulated Pension Plan Sponsors: The Federal Government announced that it will provide immediate, temporary relief to sponsors of federally regulated, defined benefit pension plans. This relief will be in the form of a moratorium through the remainder of 2020 on solvency payment requirments for defind benefit plans.
16. Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses: This program will provide loans, including forgivable loans, to commercial property owners who in turn will lower or forgo the rent of small businesses for the months of April (retroactive), May, June and July. As of September 8, 2020, the CECRA has been extended to cover the month of September. More details here: CECRA
17. Emergency Community Support Fund: The Federal Government announced this support fund to provide additional support to charities and non-profit organizations. The investment will flow through national organizations that have the ability to get funds quickly to local organizations that serve vulnerable populations including United Way Canada, Canadian Red Cross and the Community Foundations of Canada.
18. Emergency Processing Fund: The Federal Government has announced it will create a $77.5 million Emergency Processing Fund to help food producers access more personal protective equipment, adapt to health protocols, automate and modernize facilities, processes and operations and respond to pressures from the COVID 19 pandemic better.
19. National AgriRecovery Inititatives: This initiative will provide up to $125 million in funding to help producers that incur additional costs due to COVID 19.
20. Increase to the Canadian Dairy Commission's borrowing limit: The borrowing limit will increase by $200 million to support costs incurred from the temporary storage of cheese and butter to avoid food waste.
21. Surplus Food Purchase Program: This is an initiative aimed to help redistribute existing and unsold inventories to local food organizations who are serving vulnerable Canadians. An initial $50 million fund will be provided by the Federal government.
22. Other initiatives to help farmers, food businesses and food suppliers: The Federal government also announced it will increase interim payments from 50% to 75% through AgriStability, a federal, provincial and territorial program designed to help producers who have experienced significant decline in revenue and expand the AgriInsurance program to include shortages as an eligible risk for the horticulture sector.
23. Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF): The Prime Minister announced this new measure to support Canada's largest employers. The primary goal of the LEEFF is to help protect Canadian jobs and keep the operations of big businesses going through this economic downturn. Applications to LEEFF are now open (started May 20, 2020) through the Canada Development Investment Corporation. More details on the CDEV website: LEEFF
24. Support for Fish Harvesters: The Federal Government announced a new measure to provide income support for this year's fishing seasons to eligible self-employed fish harvesters ans sharespersons crew who cannot access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Other measures include the Fish Haverster Grant that will provide grants to fish harvesters impacted by COVID-19 and changes to Employment insurance to allow self-employed fish harvesters and sharespersons to access EI benefits.
25. Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF): Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Western Canada who cannot access existing financial relief measures can now apply for funding under the Regional Relief and Recover Fund (RRRF) through Western Economic Diversification Canada. More details here: RRRF
26. Alberta Commercial Tenancy Measures: The Alberta Government announced further measures to ensure commercial tenants will not face rent increases or be evicted for non-payment of rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More details are still being finalized.
27. Alberta`s SME Relaunch Grant: The Government of Alberta announced the launch of the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant, a new program that will provide financial assistance to Alberta businesses, cooperatives and non-profit organizations that were ordered to close and experienced a revenue reduction of at least 50% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More details here: Alberta`s SME Relaunch Grant
28. Black Entrepreneurship Program: The Prime Minister announced investments of up to $221 million in partnership with Canadian financial institutions to launch the Black Entrepreneurship Program. This program aims to help Black business owners and entrepreneurs recover from the COVID-19 crisis and grow their businesses.
29. Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS): This new program was launched in October 2020 and willprovide rent and mortgage support until June 2021 for qualifying organizations affected by COVID-19. This new rent subsidy will benefit tenants directly by subsidizing a percentage of their expenses on a sliding scale up to a maximum of 65% of eligible expenses until December 19, 2020. Businesses, charities and non-profits will be able to make claims retroactively for the period starting September 27 and ends October 24, 2020. UPDATE (November 23, 2020): You can now apply for CERS. More details here: CERS Blog
30. Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP): The HASCAP provides businesses that were heavily impacted by COVID-19 to access guaranteed, low interest loans of $25,000 to $1 million to cover operational cash flow needs. It is available to businesses that operate in highly affected industries such as tourism and hospitality, restaurants and those that rely on in-person services.
CRA’s Tax Measures for Individuals and Businesses:
Aside from the extensions of the income tax filing and payment deadline, the CRA has announced additional measures to support individuals and businesses who are facing difficulties in keeping up with their tax obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Administrative tax measures – Any administrative actions required of taxpayers by CRA due after March 18, 2020 can be deferred to June 1, 2020. These administrative actions include returns, elections, designations and information requests. Note that payroll deductions payments and all related activities are excluded.
2. Trusts, Partnerships and NR4 Information Returns – The deadline for trusts, partnerships and NR4 information returns are all extended to May 1, 2020.
3. Objections – Any objections related to Canadians’ entitlement to benefits and credits have been identified as a critical service and will continue to be processed. Objections related to other tax matters will be put on hold temporarily. No collection action will be taken with respect to these accounts during this period of time.
4. Extension to the deadline to file an objection – The deadline for any objection request due March 18 or later is extended until June 30, 2020.
5. Deadline for charities – The filing deadline is extended to December 31, 2020 for all charities with a Form T3010, Registered Charity Information Return due between March 18, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
6. Audit activities suspended – CRA will not initiate contact with taxpayers for audits (with some exceptions). No new audits will be launched, no request for information related to existing audits and no audits should be finalized and no reassessments should be issued.
7. Collections on new debt suspended – Collections on new debts will be suspended until further notice and flexible payment arrangements will be made available.
8. Requirement to Pay (RTP) – Banks and employers do not need to comply or remit on existing RTPs during this time.
9. Taxpayer relief requests – Taxpayers who are unable to file a return or make a payment by the deadlines because of COVID-19 can request for cancellation of penalty and interest charged to them. Note that penalties and interest will not be charged if the new deadlines announced are met. Note: If you have existing CRA debt, you may be able to get leniency by calling 1-800-675-6184.
10. Benefit Payments: CRA announced that benefit payments will continue for an additional three months for those who are not able to file their 2019 returns on time (tax filing deadline is June 1). Benefit payments with regards to GST/HST credit and Canada child benefit will continue until the end of September 2020. Please note that if your 2019 tax returns are not received and assessed by early September 2020, estimated benefit payments will stop and the taxpayer will have to repay the estimated amounts that were issued as of July 2020.