The Government of Canada is taking immediate, significant and decisive action to help Canadians facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Temporary Income Support for Workers and Parents
For Canadians without paid sick leave (or similar workplace accommodation) who are sick, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children, the Government is:
- 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.
- Introducing the Emergency Care Benefit providing up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks. This flat-payment Benefit would be administered through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provide income support to:
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
- Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school or daycare closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not.
Longer-Term Income Support for Workers
For Canadians who lose their jobs or face reduced hours as a result of COVID’s impact, the Government is:
- Introducing an Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the CRA to provide up to $5.0 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.
- Implementing the EI Work Sharing Program, which provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hour as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers, by extending the eligibility of such agreements to 76 weeks, easing eligibility requirements, and streamlining the application process. This was announced by the Prime Minister on March 11, 2020.
Income Support for Individuals Who Need It Most
For over 12 million low- and modest-income families, who may require additional help with their finances, the Government is proposing to provide a one-time special payment by early May 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC). 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. This measure will inject $5.5 billion into the economy.
For over 3.5 million families with children, who may also require additional support, the Government is proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, 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. In total, this measure will deliver almost $2 billion in extra support.
Together, the proposed enhancements of the GSTC and CCB will give a single parent with two children and low to modest income nearly $1,500 in additional short-term support.
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.
- Placing a six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans for all individuals currently in the process of repaying these loans.
- Reducing required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25% for 2020, in recognition of volatile market conditions and their impact on many seniors’ retirement savings. This will provide flexibility to seniors that are concerned that they may be required to liquidate their RRIF assets to meet minimum withdrawal requirements. Similar rules would apply to individuals receiving variable benefit payments under a defined contribution Registered Pension Plan.
- 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.
Flexibility for Taxpayers
In order to provide greater flexibility to Canadians who may be experiencing hardships during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Canada Revenue Agency will defer the filing due date for the 2019 tax returns of individuals, including certain trusts.
- For individuals (other than trusts), the return filing due date will be deferred until June 1, 2020. 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.
- For trusts having a taxation year ending on December 31, 2019, the return filing due date will be deferred until May 1, 2020.
The Canada Revenue Agency will allow all taxpayers 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. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.
In order to reduce the necessity for taxpayers and tax preparers to meet in person during this difficult time, and to reduce administrative burden, effective immediately the Canada Revenue Agency will recognize electronic signatures as having met the signature requirements of the Income Tax Act, as a temporary administrative measure. This provision applies to authorization forms T183 or T183CORP, which are forms that are signed in person by millions of Canadians every year to authorize tax preparers to file taxes.
The Canada Revenue Agency is adapting its Outreach Program to support individuals during COVID-19. Through this service, the Canada Revenue Agency offers help to individuals to better understand their tax obligations and to obtain the benefits and credits to which they are entitled. Traditionally available in-person, this service is now available over the phone, and through webinar, where possible.
The Canada Revenue Agency fully expects that many community organizations are considering whether to significantly reduce or perhaps cancel the provision of services provided under the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. Additional efforts to encourage individuals to file their tax and benefit returns electronically, or where possible, through the File My Return service, will be put forward.
Role of Financial Institutions
The Minister of Finance is in regular contact with the heads of Canada’s large banks, and continues to encourage them to show flexibility in helping their customers whose personal or business finances are affected by COVID-19. The Superintendent of Financial Institutions has also made clear his expectation that banks will use the additional lending capacity provided by recent government actions to support Canadian businesses and households.
In response, banks in Canada have affirmed their commitment to working with customers to provide flexible solutions, on a case-by-case basis, for managing through hardships caused by recent developments. This may include situations such as pay disruption, childcare disruption, or illness. Canada’s large banks have confirmed that this support will include up to a 6-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products. These targeted measures respond to immediate challenges being faced across the country and will help stabilize the Canadian economy.
Mortgage Default Management Tools
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and other mortgage insurers offer tools to lenders that can assist homeowners who may be experiencing financial difficulty. These include payment deferral, loan re-amortization, capitalization of outstanding interest arrears and other eligible expenses, and special payment arrangements.
The Government, through CMHC, is providing increased flexibility for homeowners facing financial difficulties to defer mortgage payments on homeowner CMHC-insured mortgage loans. CMHC will permit lenders to allow payment deferral beginning immediately.
March 30: the Province announced it is investing $10 million to help community organizations with the coordination of subsidized deliveries of meals, medicines and other necessities to seniors. This investment doubles the government’s initial commitment in Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19. The government is also working with grocers and pharmacists to prioritize seniors’ delivery orders and establish senior-only shopping hours.
This $10 million delivery coordination program for seniors living at home is in addition to the $20 million over two years the province has invested to protect seniors in retirement homes through increased infection control and active screening procedures and $243 million for long-term care homes to support 24/7 screening, additional staffing, enhanced cleaning and sanitation, and additional surge capacity.
March 25: Finance Minister Rod Phillips released Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 (March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update).
Key initiatives in the government’s plan to strengthen its response to the COVID-19 outbreak and support people and families include:
- Helping families pay for the extra costs associated with school and daycare closures during the COVID-19 outbreak by 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.
- Proposing to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six months.
- Supporting more affordable electricity bills for eligible residential, farm and small business consumers, by providing approximately $5.6 billion for electricity cost relief programs in 2020-21, which is an increase of approximately $1.5 billion compared to the 2019 Budget plan.
- Further supporting more affordable electricity bills by setting electricity prices for residential, farm and small business time-of-use customers at the lowest rate, known as the off-peak price, 24 hours a day for 45 days to support ratepayers in their increased daytime electricity usage as they respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, addressing concerns about time-of-use metering.
- Cutting taxes by $355 million for about 57,000 employers through a proposed temporary increase to the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption.
- Providing $9 million in 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 nonpayment during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Providing emergency child care options to support parents working on the front lines, such as health care workers, police officers, firefighters and correctional officers.
- Expanding access to the emergency assistance program administered by Ontario Works to provide financial support to people facing economic hardship and help more people meet basic needs such as food and rent during this public health emergency.
- Enhancing funding by $148 million for charitable and non-profit social services organizations such as food banks, homeless shelters, churches and emergency services to improve their ability to respond to COVID-19, by providing funding directly to Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Service Administration Boards who would allocate this funding based on local needs.
- Providing six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan and interest accrual relief for students, leaving more money in people’s pockets.
Helping to support regions lagging in employment growth with a proposed new Corporate Income Tax Credit, the Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit.
- Providing additional supports of $26 million to Indigenous peoples and communities, including emergency assistance for urban Indigenous people in financial need, and costs for health care professionals and critical supplies to reach remote First Nations.
- The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) will waive the three-month waiting period so that anyone who requires care can receive coverage.
- Additionally, the province will cover the cost of COVID-19 services for uninsured people who do not meet the criteria for OHIP coverage. Together, these measures will ensure that no one will be discouraged from seeking screening or treatment for COVID-19 for financial reasons.
The Provincial Government announced that they will be launching a Learn at Home program to help students continue to learn while their schools remain closed. The website will offer quick and easy access to learning tools for students and parents. Work is under way to provide students who do not have access to computers to provide necessary technology. Should the schools remained closed for longer than the two weeks after March Break, Stage 2 of the Learning at Home Program will launch.
The province has extended validation to expired and expiring driver’s licences, health cards, Ontario Photo Cards, licence plate stickers and many more products. You do not need to renew at this time.
Find out more about provincial products and services that are extended.