Last checked for updates: March 5, 2021
Financial assistance for newcomers in Canada: Updated for 2021
If you need financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the best places to start is the Government of Canada’s financial support tool. Simply answer a few quick questions and the tool will direct you to possible financial support options. Access the tool here.
Financial support in Canada after CERB
When CERB payments ended on September 27 workers who were already eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) could transition to EI regular benefits, while those who don’t qualify could apply for new EI special benefits.
EI regular benefits provide financial assistance to individuals who lost their employment involuntarily and who are actively seeking new employment. It provides up to $400 per week for up to 26 weeks, or $240 per week for extended parental benefits.
EI special benefits provide temporary financial support for self-employed persons, as well as for caregivers who must stay home to care for children due to COVID-19 closures of schools, daycares, etc. This program also supports employees who must stay home due to COVID-19 illness or self-isolation requirements.
In both scenarios, individuals must demonstrate a minimum of 120 hours of work completed within the past 52 weeks (or since their last EI qualification claim). Individuals must reapply after each two-week period demonstrating they continue to meet requirements.
Under the revised system of income supports, these workers can continue to earn money but will be required to repay 50 cents of every dollar earned above $38,000.
EI Special Benefits
Three new special EI benefits were introduced to the public in early October, 2020:
The Canada Recovery Benefit: Self-employed or “gig” workers, for example, can apply for a benefit of up to $400 a week for up to 26 weeks if they have stopped working or had reduced incomes due to COVID-19, which continues to linger and spread in parts of Canada, though not as widely as during the earlier months of the pandemic. Get more info here.
The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: This new benefit provides 10 days of paid sick leave to workers in Canada who fall ill or have to self-isolate due to COVID-19. This benefit will provide $500 a week. Workers can’t claim this benefit and another sick leave payment at the same time. Get more info here.
The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit: This benefit supports parents and guardians who must stay home to care for a child under 12 or another dependent because their school, daycare or other day program facility is shut down due to COVID-19. Parents who choose to keep their children at home even though the school or facility is open will not qualify, unless they provide proof there is a medical reason to do so. Get more info here.
Eligible workers and parents have been able to apply for this since October, with payments flowing within a week. More information about these benefits can be found here.
Transitioning from CERB to EI
The majority of CERB recipients who applied specifically through Service Canada were automatically transitioned to EI regular benefits once the CERB expired.
Mortgage payment deferrals
COVID-19 has left some individuals and families struggling to make mortgage payments on time. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is working with mortgage lenders in Canada to offer deferred payments for insured mortgages.
A mortgage payment deferral can allow you to skip your mortgage payment for a specified amount of time. A deferral does not cancel or erase any amount owed on a mortgage, it simply delays the required payment. Interest that is not paid during a deferral period continues to be added to the outstanding principal of a borrower’s mortgage.
Details on eligibility and repayment will vary depending on your mortgage lender and your specific mortgage situation. In order to determine if you’re eligible for a mortgage payment deferral, begin by contracting your lender.
Throughout the early months of the pandemic, Canada introduced several special financial support programs to help individuals and businesses through this challenging time.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
CERB expired on September 27, 2020. Eligible individuals may transition to EI benefits.
The CERB provided $2,000 a month for six months for workers who lost their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB was available to workers:
- Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
- Who have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020;
- Who had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and,
- Who have not quit their job voluntarily.
CERB payments are taxable, meaning recipients get the full amount for now but may need to pay tax on it eventually, depending on their circumstances and other income.
The CERB covered workers in Canada who had lost their job, were sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who had to stay home without pay to care for children who were sick or at home because of school and daycare closures. The CERB applied to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).
Employment Insurance (EI)
EI covers a range of benefits for those who lose employment. For workers, EI provides regular benefits when you lose your job through no fault of your own (for example, due to shortage of work, seasonal or mass lay-offs) and are available for and able to work, but can’t find a job.
After the expiration of CERB in September, 2020, Canada introduced expanded EI special benefits to assist in the transition away from CERB.
Eligibility criteria for EI are more complex than for the CERB. Please visit this page for EI eligibility details.
In addition, workers 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:
- Individuals requiring a Social Insurance Number (SIN) are now eligible to apply for a SIN online.
- 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 here.
A number of payments have been made available to families in Canada affected by the COVID-19 virus.
- An increase to the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC) for 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. Find out more.
- A one-time increase to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts for over 3.5 million in-need families, by $300 per child. Find out more.
- Combined, the proposed enhancements of the GSTC and CCB give a single parent with two children on a low to modest income nearly $1,500 in additional short-term support.
The Government of Canada put in place measures to support student loan borrowers during COVID-19, including a six-month, interest-free reprieve on student loan payments. This measure expired on September 30, 2020. The exact supports that students may benefit from depends on their province of residence and the nature of the loan, among other factors. Find out more here.
The Government introduced the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) of $1,250 a month for students and recent graduates that ran from May to August to address the shortage of summer jobs due to COVID-19. A higher sum of $2,000 was available for students with dependents or a disability.
The federal government introduced a range of measures designed at providing flexibility for individuals and business when it came to paying and filing tax forms this year.
- The Canada Revenue Agency allowed all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing before September, 2020.
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 discriminate when it comes to who it infects, and that is why the Canadian Government has introduced a number of measures aimed at assisting businesses across Canada survive this trying and unprecedented time. Some of the most important economic assistance includes:
- The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) provides a wage subsidy to eligible employers, retroactive to March 15, 2020. The intention is to keep the employer-employee relationship going throughout the economic downturn. The CEWS is in place until at least June 2021.
- 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.
- 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)
In addition to income support and other directives from the federal government, people across Canada – including immigrants, foreign workers, and international students – may benefit from support and directives in their province of residence.
Here are the most relevant resources, per province:
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 Residence applicants in Canada and around the world and for Working Holiday applicants and participants.