Where to find and apply for COVID-19 financial relief
Increased federal benefits
The federal government is automatically raising the amount of Canada child benefit (CBC) that is paid to every family by $300 per child per month. The payment increases will begin in May. The government will also make a one-time payment for families with modest incomes through the GST/HST credit. Individuals can expect close to $400, and couples can expect around $600 in mid-May.
Student loan extensions
As of March 30, the repayment of Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans has been automatically suspended for six months, until September 30, 2020, and no interest will accrue. Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Ontario are also providing similar payment freezes on their student loan programs.
Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs)
The minimum withdrawal for RRIFs has been reduced by 25% for 2020, reducing the total amount of taxable income that retirees will have to claim and, thus, reducing how much tax they will owe.
Utility bill deferrals
Many provinces and municipalities are mandating that utility payments can be deferred for 90 days. Please check with your local service providers to see what options are available to you. BC Hydro is also offering grants of up to $600 for people who have lost income due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mortgage and other debt repayment deferrals
Canada’s largest banks and many credit unions are offering mortgage deferrals of up to six months for people who are struggling to make ends meet during this crisis.
They are also offering payment deferrals on other debt, such as lines of credit and credit cards. It’s important to understand that this is not mortgage or debt forgiveness, and that you should assume interest will continue to accrue on the outstanding balance (talk to your lender about the specifics that apply to your mortgage, line of credit or loan). Since it will take you longer to pay off your mortgage and interest will continue to accumulate, it is possible that deferring payments now might end up costing you more in the long run—so only defer payments if you truly need to. You may also want to consider other measures, such as increasing your amortization so your repayments are smaller, and spread out over a longer period.
So, should I defer my payments?
Maybe. If you are worried about having enough money to survive in the short term, then not having to meet a mortgage payment or two will certainly help. Melissa Leong, author of the finance guide Happy Go Money, says that if you do defer, it’s smart to find out how you can repay any extra money back into your mortgage. “Say you’re getting a mortgage deferral to put the money [you would have used for repayments] in an emergency fund. If you don’t end up spending the money on basic necessities, put it back into your mortgage. Look into what your payment options are, whether that be lump-sum payments or top-ups,” says Leong.
In general, if you are worried about making ends meet during this outbreak, look carefully at ways to decrease your expenses. Leong suggests doing a line-by-line examination of your financial statements and cutting out as much as you can. “Negotiate with your telecommunications company, your insurance company, to reduce your fees. Meal plan to stretch your grocery bill,” she says. If you have to borrow money to get by, be smart about it. Leong says, “Access cheap debt if you can— through a line of credit, for example. Use as little of it as possible, and create a plan to pay it back when things normalize.”