Emergency response benefit during COVID-19

COVID-19 – Canadian Emergency Response Benefit

As the COVID-19 crisis continues with no end in sight, many of you will face economic hardship and other obstacles that interfere with the well-being of you and your families. We have prepared this compilation of many the most impactful government relief measure that may be available for you in this time of uncertainty. It is based on our best current information and hopefully will answer some of your questions and offer guidance for further investigation into the benefits available. We will continue to monitor the news for updated information and will try to communicate any important updates promptly. We recommend that you confirm the current status of the measures we describe and review the websites for any other potential sources of assistance the government agencies might offer. As always, we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and are here for you if you have questions or concerns.

The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

This massive federal initiative will be available for all eligible workers who have either stopped working or are without employment or self-employment income because of COVID-19.

The CERB is a taxable benefit (which means it will impact your 2020 income tax return). It is for $2,000 provided in weekly $500 installments for up to 16 weeks. It must be re-applied for after each four-week period.

Applications can be submitted starting Monday, April 6 to 9, 2020 depending on your birth month, through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), either online or by automated telephone service.

The CRA estimates that direct deposit applicants will receive the first installment 3 days after applying, while cheques should arrive within 10 days.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

The CERB is available to workers who reside in Canada and:

  • They are at least 15 years old.
  • Have stopped working because of COVID-19, or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits.
  • Had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application, and
  • Are or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period.

“Income” can include employment; self-employment; maternity and parental benefits under the Employment Insurance program.

OTHER KEY FEDERAL MEASURES FOR INDIVIDUALS

Other key federal measures designed to provide relief for individuals include the following:

  • Impacted borrowers can defer their monthly mortgage payments for up to six months (interest and principal). Deferred payments are added to the outstanding principal balance and subsequently repaid throughout the life of the mortgage. See the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC): “What to do if you are facing financial hardship” page.
  • Individuals can make a 25% lower minimum Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) withdrawal for 2020 (note: similar measures have been proposed for individuals who are receiving or will receive variable benefit payments under defined contribution registered pension plans (RPPs)). See the Government of Canada’s “Registered Retirement Income Funds” page for details.
  • Families will receive an extra $300 per child through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) programme for 2019-2020, to be included with the CBB payment scheduled for May 20,2020. No further steps are required to receive the enhanced benefit. See the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) “Canada Child Benefit” webpage.
  • Eligible individuals and families will receive a one-time special payment through the GST/HST credit in early May 2020. No additional steps are required to receive this credit. The average additional benefit will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. See the Government of Canada’s “GST/HST credit eligibility” webpage.
  • 2019 tax returns can be deferred until June 1, 2020, for individuals, and until May 1, 2020, for trusts having a taxation year ending on December 31, 2019.
  • Individuals with Canada Student Loans can avoid payment of their loans for six-months during which time no interest will accrue on the loans. See the Government of Canada’s “Support for Individuals” webpage. Additionally, The Ontario Government will provide six months of OSAP loan and interest accrual relief for students.

Ontario measures include:

  • Providing emergency childcare options to support parents working on the front lines.
  • Providing a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, (including children enrolled in private schools) to help families pay for the extra costs associated with school and daycare closures.
  • Doubling the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six months.
  • Providing direct support to families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and ensuring that their electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected for non-payment.
  • Expanding access to Ontario Works to help more people meet basic needs such as food and rent.

For more information, see the Ontario Ministry of Finance website.

Additionally, the City of Toronto:

  • Will provide businesses and property owners with a 60-day grace period on their City of Toronto property tax, Toronto Water, and Solid Waste bill payments, as of March 16, 2020.
  • Late payment penalties on business properties will be waived for 60 days, starting on March 16, 2020.
  • For property owners on the 11-instalment pre-authorized payment plan, Interim 2020 instalment due dates will be extended by 60 days.
  • Late payment penalties for residential properties will be waived for 60 days, starting March 16, 2020.

For more information, see the City of Toronto website.