Latest update: 17:30pm EST, March 25, 2020
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently outlined a range of economic measures that Canada was taking to assist the individuals and businesses directly affect by COVID-19. We are going to distill this information and provide a particular focus on how these benefits for immigrants may assist those from abroad living in Canada. (Source: CBC)
The total economic value of the federal government aid package announced by Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Morneau will be $82 billion. $27 billion will be in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses, while $55 billion will be to meet the liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals to help stabilize the economy. Combined, this $82 billion in support represents more than 3 percent of Canada’s GDP. It is intended that these supports will help Canadians pay for rent and groceries, and help Canadian businesses continue to pay their employees during this time of uncertainty. This plan builds on coordinated action taken since the beginning of this outbreak, including the more than $1 billion COVID-19 Response Fund, which provided funding to provinces and territories to strengthen critical health care systems. (Source: CBC)
Let’s take a closer look at the various strands of the aid package announced this morning, and the impact that they may have on immigrants in Canada.
This is a developing story. Please visit regularly for the most recent information. To get access to the latest information as it becomes available, please create a Moving2Canada account and sign up for our newsletter.
As the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) becomes more apparent around the world, the Moving2Canada team has received an increasing volume of related inquiries from people expecting to move to or visit Canada within the coming weeks and months. We aim to refer affected persons to the information and advice they may need.
A number of payments have been made available to families in Canada affected by the COVID-19 virus.
- First of all, the Government is proposing to provide a one-time special payment by early May 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC) to low and middle income families. This will double the maximum annual GSTC payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year. The average boost to income for those benefitting from this measure will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples.
- In addition, the Government is proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts for over 3.5 million in-need families, by $300 per child. The overall increase for families receiving CCB will be approximately $550 on average; these families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment.
- Combined, the proposed enhancements of the GSTC and CCB will give a single parent with two children on a low to modest income nearly $1,500 in additional short-term support.
- Both of the aforementioned payments are due to come into effect in May 2020. (Source: Government of Canada)
Given the ever-changing nature of this news cycle, and others related to COVID-19, we will be adding further details in relation to both GSTC and CCB payments as soon as we receive them. We will update this page as soon as we have any further information in this respect.
Canadian workers affected by COVID-19 will be eligible for a number of supports announced by Prime Minister Trudeau and the Canadian Government. They include:
- To support workers and help businesses keep their employees, the government has proposed legislation to establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This taxable benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB would be a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.
- The CERB would cover Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures. The CERB would apply to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).
- Additionally, workers who are still employed, but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19, would also qualify for the CERB. This would help businesses keep their employees as they navigate these difficult times, while ensuring they preserve the ability to quickly resume operations as soon as it becomes possible.
- Given this situation, all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether they are EI-eligible or not, would be able to receive the CERB to ensure they have timely access to the income support they need.
- Canadians who are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits as of today would continue to receive their benefits and should not apply to the CERB. If their EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, they could apply for the CERB once their EI benefits cease, if they are unable to return to work due to COVID-19. Canadians who have already applied for EI and whose application has not yet been processed would not need to reapply. Canadians who are eligible for EI regular and sickness benefits would still be able to access their normal EI benefits, if still unemployed, after the 16-week period covered by the CERB. (Source: Government of Canada)
In addition, Canadians without paid sick leave (or similar workplace accommodation) who are sick, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children, can take advantage of the following supports announced by the Government:
- Waiving the one-week waiting period for those individuals in imposed quarantine that claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. This temporary measure is in effect as of March 15, 2020.
- Waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits. (Source: Government of Canada)
More information about applying for EI sickness benefits is available on the government’s website.
The Canadian Government has announced a six-month, interest-free reprieve on student loan payments. It is estimated that this will provide Canadian recent graduates with around $150 extra in their pockets per month for the duration of this reprieve. (Source: Government of Canada)
To ensure that certain groups who may be vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 have the support they need, the Government is proposing targeted help by:
- Providing $305 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities.
- Reducing required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25 percent for 2020, in recognition of volatile market conditions and their impact on many seniors’ retirement savings.
- Providing the Reaching Home initiative with $157.5 million to continue to support people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. The funding could be used for a range of needs such as purchasing beds and physical barriers for social distancing and securing accommodation to reduce overcrowding in shelters.
- Supporting women and children fleeing violence, by providing up to $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities. This includes funding for facilities in Indigenous communities. (Source: Government of Canada)
The economic aid package announced by the Canadian Government on Wednesday, March 18th included a range of measures designed at providing flexibility for individuals and business when it comes to paying and filing tax forms this year. Let’s look at the benefits and entitlements for individuals, including the millions of immigrants working in Canada, first.
- The Canadian Government has extended the federal tax deadline to June 1 for individuals. However, the Agency encourages individuals who expect to receive benefits under the GSTC or the Canada Child Benefit not to delay the filing of their return to ensure their entitlements for the 2020-21 benefit year are properly determined.
- They have also allowed taxpayers to defer until after August 31 tax payments that are due after today and before September. (Source: Government of Canada)
- The Canada Revenue Agency will allow all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020.
- The Canada Revenue Agency will not contact any small or medium (SME) businesses to initiate any post assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits for the next four weeks. For the vast majority of businesses, the Canada Revenue Agency will temporarily suspend audit interaction with taxpayers and representatives. (Source: Government of Canada)
There are thousands of Canadian businesses that are immigrant-owned. In fact, Moving2Canada is a prime example of such an enterprise. However, as we all know, COVID-19 does not discrimate when it comes to who it infects and that is why the Canadian Government has introduced a number of measures today aimed at assisting businesses across Canada survive this trying and unprecedented time. Some of the most important economic assistance includes:
- A subsidy to support businesses that are facing revenue losses and to help prevent lay-offs. The subsidy will be equal to 10 percent of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer for three months. Businesses will be able to benefit immediately from this support by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld on their employees’ remuneration. Employers benefiting from this measure will include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as non-profit organizations and charities.
- In addition, the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) will allow the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) to provide more than $10 billion of additional support, largely targeted to small and medium-sized businesses. This will be an effective tool for helping viable Canadian businesses remain resilient during these very uncertain times. BDC and EDC are cooperating with private sector lenders to coordinate on credit solutions for individual businesses, including in sectors such as oil and gas, air transportation and tourism. The near term credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector will also be increased through Farm Credit Canada.
- Finally, the Bank of Canada also took a series of actions to support the Canadian economy during this period of economic stress, enhance the resilience of the Canadian financial system, and help ensure that financial institutions can continue to extend credit to both households and businesses. This included cutting the interest rate to 0.75 percent as a proactive measure in light of the negative shocks to Canada’s economy arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent sharp drop in oil prices. (Source: Government of Canada)
On Tuesday, March 24th, the Canadian government announced in more detail some of the measures implemented to help businesses survive the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.Small businesses will get wage support by reducing how much they hand over in payroll deductions to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rather than receiving a government cheque. The subsidy is equal to 10 percent of the remuneration paid between March 18 and June 20, 2020, up to $1,375 per employee and a maximum of $25,000 total per employer, according to the CRA.
Using the CRA’s example, a company with five employees will be able to receive a maximum subsidy of $6,875 (or $1,375 per employee). Once a company has done the calculations, it can reduce its current remittance of federal, provincial or territorial income tax sent to the CRA. Companies can’t reduce Canada Pension Plan contributions or employment insurance (EI) premiums. (Source: Global News)
As well as the economic subbsidies and other aid measures announced by the Canadian Government at a federal level, a number of initiatives have been introduced at the provincial level by Canada’s ten provinces and three territories. Let’s have a look at how immigrants in towns and cities across Canada may be able to benefit from some of the additional measures being introduced in their local region.
In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney announced that $50 million would be made available for “emergency isolation support,” a temporary program through which working, adult citizens who are in self-isolation can apply for a one-time payment until federal emergency payments are sent out next month.
The Alberta government said the payments will be $573 per week for the two weeks between now and when the federal benefits kick in, for a total of $1,146. Kenney said those who feel they may qualify can apply on alberta.ca next week and that a payment will be deposited into their accounts soon after if they are approved.
Kenney also announced utility protection for citizens and businesses, meaning they can defer bill payments for 90 days without having essential services cut off. He said that step covers electricity and natural gas and that he is pushing municipalities to take similar action for water bills. Finally, students will be able to take advantage of a six-month, interest-free moratorium on provincial student loan payments, the government announced. This measure is aimed at students already in the process of paying loans off.
On Monday, March 24, the British Columbia government, under the stewardship of Premier John Horgan, announced a range of payments that would be made available to individuals and businesses struggling to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The plan includes $2.8 billion in support for individuals and services, and $2.2 billion for businesses.
In terms of aid for workers, the response fund includes $1.1 billion to support incomes for workers and families, including a one-time $1,000 tax-free benefit for people unable to work due to the crisis. This includes workers who have been laid off, workers who are sick or quarantined, parents with sick children, parents who stay home because childcare centres and schools are closed, and people who stay home to care for sick family members. The benefit will be paid to eligible B.C. residents, on top of the recently announced federal income supports, and is expected to be available by May.
Businesses with a payroll of more than $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until Sept. 30, 2020. The province is also extending tax filing and payment deadlines for the provincial sales tax, municipal and regional district taxes, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax and carbon tax until Sept. 30, 2020.
Finally, licensed childcare providers staying open will receive enhanced funding. These centres are eligible to receive seven times their average monthly operating funding from government, which is expected to cover approximately 75 per cent of a group facility’s average monthly operating expenses. (Source: Global News)
Manitoba declared a provincial state of emergency under the Emergency Measures Act on March 20, 2020. In response to this announcement, the Manitoba government has introduced a number of measures aimed at providing financial and structural aid to residents in the province who may need it. On March 20, 2020, The Manitoba government announced the following measures to help provide child care to essential front-line workers:
- establish a new $18-million grant program to help early childhood educators begin independently offering chlid-care services at their homes or in the community;
- continue to provide licensed child-care centres with their full operating grants and subsidies;
- create a $2 million trust to provide capital gains to child-care providers; and
- encourage all centres to reimburse prepaid fees to parents for child care they can no longer access at this time.
- For more information, see the Government of Manitoba’s news release of March 20, 2020.
In terms of support for businesses in the province, the Manitoba government made the following announcements.
- The province will extend the April and May filing deadlines for small and medium-sized business with monthly remittances of not more than $10,000. Businesses will have up to two additional months to remit retain sales taxes, and the Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax Levy.
- The Minister of Finance also noted that it will work with businesses regarding flexible repayment options above the $10,000 cap.
Finally, if you want further information on financial assistance in Manitoba then you should visit the relevant page.
The Government of New Brunswick has committed to covering the child-care fees of anyone who has lost their income due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, the Government of New Brunswick will also cover any “double fees” for child care services for essential workers. This includes workers paying to reserve a space at their usual child care facility, but whose child is attending one of the emergency child care facilities. (Source: Government of New Brunswick)
Information on social assistance in New Brunswick can be accessed here.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The Newfoundland and Labrador government has announced that income support benefits will continue to be issued to clients as usual despite COVID-19. This will continue to be a priority. Applications for Income Support are continuing to be processed. Income Support benefits for March were processed as scheduled on March 15. Most clients already have direct deposit. Staff continue to reach out to those still receiving cheques to convert to direct deposit payments to avoid any delay. Due to the COVID – 19 Public Health Emergency, all AESL offices are currently closed to the public and we have staff working from home providing priority services only at this time.
Finally, effective March 30, 2020, all Canada Student Loan, Canada Apprentice Loan and Newfoundland and Labrador Student Loan borrowers will automatically have their repayments suspended until September 30, 2020. No payment will be required and interest will not accrue during this time. The Provincial Government does not charge interest on provincial student loans. Students do not need to apply for the repayment suspension.
The Nova Scotia government has put a number of provisions in place to help deal with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In an effort to assist those who are particularly vulnerable, the provincial government has promised that:
- Every individual and family member on income assistance will receive an additional $50 starting Friday, 20 March. People do not need to apply.
- $1 million to help Feed Nova Scotia purchase food and hire more staff.
- Emergency funding of $230,000 for Senior Safety Programs and Community Links to help vulnerable older adults.
In addition, the government of Nova Scotia has vowed to assist local businesses in the following ways:
- The government will defer payments until June 30 for all government loans, including those under the Farm Loan Board, Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board, Jobs Fund, Nova Scotia Business Fund, Municipal Finance Corp. and Housing Nova Scotia.
- The government will defer payments until June 30 for small business renewal fees, including business registration renewal fees and workers compensation premiums (a list of fees will be posted online early next week).
- Changes to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, administered through credit unions, include deferring principal and interest payments until June 30, enhancing the program to make it easier for businesses to access credit up to $500,000, and for those who might not qualify for a loan, government will guarantee the first $100,000.
- Small businesses which do business with the government will be paid within five days instead of the standard 30 days
- Suspending payments on Nova Scotia student loans for six months, from March 30 to Sept. 30 and students do not have to apply
- Ensuring more Nova Scotians can access the internet to work from home, by providing $15 million as an incentive to providers to speed up projects under the Internet for Nova Scotia Initiative and complete them as soon as possible (Source: Government of Nova Scotia)
Ontario is providing $200 million in social services relief funding to help protect the health and safety of these vulnerable populations. The Province’s investment will provide additional resources directly to individuals and families in financial crisis. This includes those who are not able to access federal assistance to cover needs such as food costs, rent, medicine and other essential services during this time.
Ontario is expanding access to existing Emergency Assistance under the current provisions of Ontario Works. This is available to people with limited income, assets or credit who are in a crisis or an emergency situation. Ontario is providing additional resources and expanding access to Emergency Assistance for those facing a COVID-19 related financial emergency by:
- Suspending the rule that limits emergencyassistance provision to only once in a six-month period for individuals and families affected by COVID-19; and
- Allowing people to receive emergency assistance for longer (48 days) without submitting a full Ontario Works application.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King today announced an initial $25 million Emergency Contingency Fund to support Island workers, including the self-employed, and small businesses who are affected by COVID-19.
Several specific measures are being put in place as part of the province’s response to COVID-19 and were highlighted by several Cabinet Ministers. A highlight of measures currently being implemented include:
- Establishing a $25 million COVID-19 Emergency Contingency Fund
- Establishing a toll-free number to assist employers in addressing their concerns and support needs
- Actively monitoring the supply chain impacts
- Exploring compensation plans for childcare staff
- Moving provincial government departments and agencies to essential services
- Cancelling all government initiated public consultation sessions
In addition, on March 18, 2020, the Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:
- the scheduled loan payments are deferred for the next 3 months for clients of Finance PEI, Island Investment Development Inc., and the PEI Century Fund;
- $4.5 million will be provided to Community Business Development Corporations across the province to deliver financing to small business and entrepreneurs; and
- a temporary allowance of $200 per week for employees that have a significant drop in their working hours. (Source: Government of Prince Edward Island)
A similar announcement on March 20 saw the following measures introduced:
- creating a fund of up to $2 million to support early learning centres, maintain child care spaces and ensure parents do not pay fees during the period of closures;
- deferring repayments for provincial student loans for the next six months; and
- providing home learning activities for students. (Source: Government of Prince Edward Island)
Finally, the Government of Prince Edward Island announced a program for the self-employed individuals that consists of a maximum of $500 per week for the period of March 16 to March 29, 2020. The government notes that this period will be reviewed if necessary. To be illegible to the program, the individuals must have declared business income on their most recent tax return, business income must be their primary source of income, must be able to demonstrate direct financial losses related to COVID-19 isolation measures and don’t receive any other income support.
In an effort to encourage people to self-isolate if they have symptoms or have returned from abroad, the Quebec government, under the leadership of Premier Francois Legault, is providing financial compensation to those who lose their revenue stream and don’t qualify for employment insurance. The government is committing $573 per week to workers who are self-isolating. Most people will only need the money for two weeks, Legault said, but those who have symptoms and have to self-isolate longer, it will be extended to a maximum of 4 weeks. (Source: CTV News)
The workers who are eligible are those who are in isolation for one of the following reasons:
- they have contracted the virus or have symptoms of it
- they have been in contact with an infected person
- they have returned from abroad
Also, workers who are in isolation (or likely to go into isolation based on the above criteria) are eligible for the Program if:
- they do not receive compensation from their employer
- they do not have private insurance
- they are not covered by other government programs, such as employment insurance from the federal government
You can find additional information on applying for this temporary financial compensation offered by the Quebec government here.
On March 20, 2020, the Premier of Saskatchewan announced a support plan for employers and employees. The Self-Isolation Support Program will provide $450 per week for a maximum of two weeks (or $900) for residents who are forced to self-isolate. Workers can apply to the program if they were (or are) in isolation because they had contracted the virus or are showing symptoms, had been in contact with an infected person or had returned from abroad. Workers are not eligible if they are being compensated by their employer (including sick leave and vacation leave), they have private insurance, or if they are covered by another government program, including federal employment insurance.
The Saskatchewan Employment Act was also amended to introduce a new unpaid public health emergency leave and remove the 13-week employment requirement to access sick leave and the requirement for a doctor’s note to access sick leave.
The Employment Standard Regulations have been amended to provide that:
- businesses will not have to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice when they lay-off staff if it is for a period of 12 weeks or less in a 16-week period.
- if an employer lays off employees periodically for a total of more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period, the employees are considered to be terminated and are entitled to pay instead of notice.
In terms of businesses, the Premier of Saskatchewan announced a penalty and interest waiver program on March 20, 2020. Businesses directly impacted by COVID-19 and that are unable to file their provincial sales tax returns by the due date may submit a request for relief from interest or penalties that would otherwise apply to such late filings. In addition, businesses who have cashflow concerns and that are unable to remit their PST will have relief from penalty and interest charges for three months. Audit programs and compliance activities have been suspended. (Source: Government of Saskatchewan)
To date the three Canadian territories of Nunavut, Yukon and Northwest Territories (NWT) have seen far fewer COVID-19 cases than elsewhere in Canada. However, in recent days the Yukon and N.W.T have reported cases. If you want information on the entitlements and benefits that immigrants and local residents in these territories may be able to access, you can do so below.
Share your experiences with our community
If you’re looking to connect with others who are experiencing the challenges of COVID-19 as newcomers in Canada, check out our community on Facebook. Not only do we operate our Moving2Canada Facebook page, but we also have Facebook forums for Permanent Residents in Canada and for Working Holiday Participants.