Reflections from 7 weeks of semi-confinement (200th post)

A New Day: The End is in Sight

This post is a follow-up to a previous one, where I wrote about how I was coping during these unusual times. I apologize in advance if my writing seems messy, and perhaps not-so-coherent at times.

My feelings are still fairly raw, and we’re still in the pandemic, even though the BC government has introduced a plan to gradually re-open the province over the next few weeks, starting after Victoria Day.

I am not aiming for a Pulitzer price anyway….

A glimmer of normalcy…

Last Saturday, I met with a friend for the first time since Covid-19 broke out in Canada, back in March.

Yes, it was an in-person meeting. We went for a walk, practicing physical distancing.

It was an incredible afternoon. This sentence sums it all.

Not so OK over the last 3 weeks

I have always prided myself in having a better sense of perspective than a lot of people. 7 weeks of semi-confinement showed me it wasn’t always the case.

Examples are plentiful:

  • I miss being able to go to the grocery store for last minute errands, or because “I want to”. Supermarkets are working on reduced hours and right now, I find grocery shopping rather stressful.
  • I miss the public swimming pool and going there when I want to. Rec centers have been closed since March.
  • I miss going to other social places like restaurants, movie theaters or the bowling alley. These have also been closed since March.
  • I miss being able to travel. I had to cancel my trip to France, and don’t know when overseas travel will be possible.
  • I miss my family, friends and acquaintances. I still don’t know when I will be able to see them again, in person. I noticed I really needed in-person interaction. Virtual contacts are no longer enough.
  • I had to put up with my neighbors and their noise way more than usual. The result of high unemployment and school closures.
  • I had to postpone some parts of my life. Because of the on-going confinement and uncertainty, there are some things I am unable to do at this stage. I don’t know when I’ll be able to do them.
  • Boredom has started setting-in.

All of the above started wearing me down about 3 weeks ago. I had been coping relatively fine until then.

A new appreciation of my privilege

As I mentioned before, I had the luxury of staying home during this pandemic. Staying home is definitely a luxury most people can’t afford.

My heart went out to the people of India who were ordered to stay home, without receiving any assistance from their government. Lots of Indians found themselves struggling just to stay alive. The same happened in many countries.

Back home, I will remember March 18th for some time. That day, both my fridge and pantry were almost empty. I decided to place an online order on Spud. I was shocked to find out they couldn’t deliver it before 2 weeks. This had never happened before.

(PS: if you want $ 20 off your first order on Spud, use the code CRVANSIRSTA upon checking-out).

I decided to go to a supermarket instead. I was equally shocked to see the store pretty much empty…of goods. Most of the shelves were bare. I had never seen this in my entire life.

For the first time, I experienced food insecurity. I had to buy what was still available, rather than what I wanted. I gained a whole new understanding for the people experiencing this every single day.

Some items were hard to find for the first few weeks after this pandemic started here. Panic-buying has since rescinded. There was actually never any shortages of any goods in Canada. Supply simply couldn’t keep up with demand at one point.

A deeper gratitude for living in Canada

I have lived here for 14 years. The ride hasn’t always been easy. I felt like I was on a roller coaster more times than I can count.

Yet, I have always been grateful for the opportunity to live in Canada. Lately, I noticed this gratitude has deepened. I’m not sure why.

Maybe it’s because our various governments have all been singing from the same hymn sheet to deal with Covid-19. And our elected officials have also been doing what they’re preaching.

Maybe it’s because our various governments have been providing us with various levels of financial assistance so that we can stay home while still being able to pay for our bills and keep our businesses afloat.

Maybe it’s because our healthcare system is equipped to deal with this disease and is pretty much free of charge.

Maybe it’s because all of the above made us listen and be disciplined for the most part. This is how we flattened the curve.

Maybe it’s because I am seeing the stark divisions south of our border. I feel for the American people too.

What’s next?

Well, this is the million-dollar question. Like most people I have no idea.

All I know is that the end is definitely near, at least here in BC.

I also know that we will get through this, eventually. Mankind has weathered much worse and come ahead.

It’s just a matter of time and extra patience….

CESB explained

Everything You Need to Know About British Columbia Student Loans ...

Until last week, very little financial relief was available to students. In March, the federal government announced a 6-month moratorium on federal student loans. Anyone with such loan is not required to make any payments until October. Interests won’t accrue during that period either.

That was about it. The majority of students doesn’t qualify for CERB or EI benefits. Last Friday a $9 billion student aid package was approved by the Senate, including funding for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit or CESB.

Let’s take a look at this new benefit.

General info

The benefit amount is $ 1 250.00 per month or $ 2 000 for students with a disability or dependents. It will be paid from May to August.

The program is administered by Canada Revenue Agency and applications will need to be made on their website.

At this stage, it’s unknown whether this benefit is taxable or not.

Eligibility

To receive the benefit you need to:

  • be enrolled in a post-secondary education program leading to a degree, diploma, or certificate; OR
  • be a graduate in December 2019 or after; OR
  • be a high-school graduate who will be joining a post-secondary program in the coming months; AND
  • Not receiving any income of any kind. If you’re working, you’re not eligible. If you lost your job due to Covid-19, apply for CERB instead; AND
  • Be looking for a job. This was a requirement from opposition to pass the bill.

Please note the words “or” as well as “and”. They’re crucial.

Other measures

In addition to CESB, the federal government has also announced the following:

  • doubling the Canada Student Grants for F/T students to $ 6 000/year; P/T students: $ 3 600/year.
  • increasing the maximum amount on federal loans to $ 11 900/year
  • suspending the fixed student contribution amount for 2020/2021- $ 1 500 to $ 3 000-
  • creating the Canada Student Service Grant for students who volunteer in specific sectors this Summer. Amount from $ 1 000 to $ 5 000, depending on number of hours.

Final word

All the details for this aid package are not available just yet. We’ll update this post when we know more.

It’s a good thing some help is on the way for students. Unlike Europe, tuition fees in Canada are sky-high. The average student loan debt for a graduate student is $ 28 000….

Lost your job? Don’t make these 3 mistakes!

Coronavirus Put You Out of Work? Help's Possible - The Post

There is a high probability you’ve been impacted by Covid-19. Whether you caught it, had to stay home to take care of children or lost your job, this virus definitely has had a huge impact on our lives and routines. In Canada, it may be weeks before we can go back to some semblance of normality.

Today, I want to broach the topic of job loss and the pitfalls associated with it. The truth is that, when you lost your job, you need to be as prepared as you possibly can.

Mistake # 1- Not applying for benefits

Unless you were fired for gross misconduct or just cause, chances are you received severance pay. You probably think you can live off the severance until it’s exhausted, then apply for unemployment benefits. Wrong!

In Canada, you need to apply for EI within 30 days of loosing your job. After that, Service Canada could deny your claim. Same goes if you are sick or hospitalized. You need to apply for health benefits in a timely manner, whether it’s via Service Canada or a disability claim through a private insurer.

The only benefit giving you a bit more leeway is CERB. You don’t have to apply right away. However, you do need to apply if you want to receive the money. Benefits aren’t automatically granted.

Mistake # 2- Not cutting your spending

When your income has been eliminated or reduced, you can’t spend the same way than when you received a full paycheck, unless you have the adequate amount of savings. I previously wrote about this subject here.

Mistake # 3- Assuming you’ll be re-hired

You actually have no idea if you will be rehired or not, despite what your employer might tell you. You don’t know if your role will change or if your employer will undergo reorganization or restructuring in response to whatever the new normal is. You also don’t know if you’ll receive the same salary and benefits.

Be proactive instead

It’s okay to take some time to process everything and readjust to being out of work. But being unemployed isn’t an extended vacation. Benefits and emergency funds will only take you to a certain point.

There are a lot of things that you can be doing right now to make yourself a stronger candidate and prepared for reemployment, whether your plan is to go back to your old job or if you’ll be applying for a new position.

To name a few: update your resume, get in touch with your network, learn a new skill, and yes, look for a job, even if things are slow right now.

Do what you need to do to improve yourself and your situation, so that you will be better set up for whatever comes next for you.

Final word

Being laid off from work sucks, no matter what the circumstances. By focusing on the things that are within your control, you can survive this challenging time – and maybe even thrive. Don’t give up! 

CERB updated

Chiefs of Ontario on Twitter: "Applications are now open for the ...

I previously wrote a post about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, mainly to summarize the qualification criteria.

This benefit has since been expanded to include more people. Additional clarifications were also provided.

Updated eligibility criteria

In order to receive CERB, you need to meet the following conditions:

  • You’re a worker -either employed or self-employed- and your hours have been reduced or eliminated due to Covid-19
  • You have sustained a total loss of income in the last 14 days OR you earned less than $ 1 000 in employment income
  • You are not expected to earn any income in subsequent periods OR you will earn less than than $ 1 000/month in employment income
  • OR you were receiving regular EI benefits on Dec 29, 2019 and your claim has ended since; you’re still unemployed AND
  • You are at least 15 years old AND
  • You reside in Canada AND
  • You’ve earned a minimum of $ 5 000.00 in 2019; These 5K need to be considered “regular income” by CRA: employment income, self-employment income, EI benefits, commissions…They’re not mutually exclusive. Dividends or director’s fees are excluded. Same with grants and bursaries or with income assistance programs.

Please note the “or” as well as the “and”. They’re crucial here!

Updated breakdown

Eligible

  • Laid-off because of Covid-19, do or don’t qualify for EI
  • Sick with Covid-19, do or don’t qualify for EI
  • Hours reduced or eliminated because of virus, either employed or self-employed; do or don’t qualify for EI
  • Earning less than 1K/month
  • Taking care of a relative sick with Covid-19
  • Taking care of your children because of schools/daycares closure
  • On EI at Dec 29, 2019 benefits exhausted since, still not working and earning income
  • Receiving other Covid-19 support payments from province/territory

Not eligible

  • Still working and earning more than $1K per month
  • No longer working but paid by employer (lucky you!)
  • Employer on wage subsidy program, i.e. paying you
  • Job slated to start soon, including students with Summer jobs
  • Receiving any EI benefits: employment, sickness, maternal/parental
  • Receiving pension or income from RRIF
  • Receiving income assistance
  • Receiving disability payments from insurance co. or gvt
  • Students who didn’t have jobs prior to Covid-19
  • Stay-at-home parents prior to Covid-19
  • People who resigned/voluntarily quit job
  • Loss of income/job for other reasons than Covid-19 (apply for EI, if you qualify)
  • Unemployed & not on EI on Dec 29, 2019
  • On unpaid leave of any kind, i.e. not working, not earning
  • Didn’t earn 5K of regular income in 2019

Unfortunately many people will still not qualify for CERB.

If you’re a student, there is some hope for you. The Federal government has just announced the creation of the Canada Emergency Student Benefit -CESB-. Details unclear at this stage though.

Where to apply

This has also been clarified by the Federal government.

If you’re eligible for EI, i.e. you worked the required number of hours, apply via Service Canada. The required number of hours can be found here. – you’ll need to scroll down-. Look at the hours entered on your Record of Employment -ROE-.

If you’re not eligible for EI, apply via Canada Revenue Agency.

Do not apply to both, and do not switch agency when re-applying. It’s OK if you applied via CRA even if you should have applied via Service Canada instead.

Amount, length and taxes

The amount is still a flat $ 2 000/month, regardless of how much you made prior to applying.

It’s available for a maximum of 4 months. You still need to re-apply for each eligibility period.

This benefit is taxable, however CRA will not withhold any income tax.

No documentation required….yet

Upon applying, you only need to certify you meet the eligibility criteria.

However, CRA or Service Canada may ask you for documentation later on. Keep this in mind, particularly if you want to game the system…

How I am handling my finances and coping during Covid-19

Hope and caution during infertility treatment - Harvard Health Blog ...

I have received a flurry of e-mails from readers asking me how I am handling my finances and my life in general during these uncertain times. Thanks for reaching out. I will gladly oblige.

First, expressing gratitude

As some of you know, I am based in Vancouver, Canada. Here, there is no “confinement” like in other parts of the country or in other countries. However, many shops, businesses and places of entertainment are closed until further notice. Same for schools and universities.

People are asked to stay home as much as possible…which is exactly what I have been doing since mid March. I was supposed to travel to France, my home country but cancelled my flights as the country went in total lock-down. My plane ticket is refundable, but I am unsure as to when said refund will be processed. It could be a while…

I realize how privileged I am to be able to stay home. I am not a frontline worker and I have the luxury of setting my own hours and workload. Said workload has definitely decreased, but I am fine financially….at least for the time being.

I am equally privileged to live in Canada, where the healthcare system is more than adequate and where all levels of government are working together to provide assistance and see us through this crisis.

I have never taken my Western-world background for granted. It has given me incredible privilege and opportunities from the day I was born. It is continuing to do so now.

How I am managing my finances

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty:

  • My income is down. Honesty is important.
  • I am still paying my bills in full and on time, at least for now. Yes, I realize how fortunate I am to be able to do so. Most of the amounts on my usual bills have remained the same, mainly my fixed expenses such as my mortgage, strata fees, car insurance and internet. Other bills are not due before Summer such as my home insurance, prepaid cell phone and property taxes.
  • I have postponed any non-urgent spending, such as servicing my car and minor maintenance items in my condo.
  • I have not touched my investment portfolio. It went down in value, but I am sticking to my plan. My portfolio is for retirement purposes, so I don’t need the money at this stage.
  • I am not contributing to my RRSP or TFSA for now. It is unfortunate, but as my income is down, it’s not a priority at this stage.
  • My overall spending is actually down. That’s a good thing given my income is also down! As a lot of shops, restaurants and other entertainment places are closed, I haven’t spend anything on them. I have also made a conscious choice of avoiding supermarkets and other essential shops as much as possible. I also chose to limit the amount of deliveries to my home.

How I am coping personally

I have made good use of my unexpected free time. My condo is de-cluttered and more functional than ever. I have rediscovered the joy of cooking and baking. I have also binge-watched on Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. I have been reading a lot too.

I have been in touch with friends and family via Facebook and WhatsApp.

I am not watching the News too much though. I find it anxiety-producing.

Once again, I realize how fortunate and privileged I am.

Final word

I am aware there’s much more important things going on in the world today than how a personal finance blogger is managing her finances. I know there is more important than me, period.

I guess I just want to reach out to anyone who is in the same situation and feeling unsettled or alone. You’re not alone. Your feelings are normal.

We will get through this.

Stay safe!

CERB explained

🇨🇦 Ryan Gauss (@RyanMGauss) | Twitter

This coming Monday, the application portal to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit -CERB- will open.

CRA is already anticipating an overload on the system and has broken down application days by month of birth. The breakdown is here.

The Agency has also provided more details in regards to eligibility. I will kindly summarize them for you.

Some details remain unclear though. I’ll make a note of them too.

Eligibility criteria

To apply, you need to meet ALL of the following conditions:

  • You’re a worker -either employed or self-employed- and your hours have been reduced to zero due to Covid-19
  • You have sustained a total loss of income in the last 14 days
  • You are not expected to earn any income in subsequent periods
  • You are at least 15 years old
  • You reside in Canada
  • You’ve earned a minimum of $ 5 000.00 in 2019; These 5K can come from employment income, self-employment income, EI benefits…They’re not mutually exclusive.

You can’t combine CERB with any other income, except…

The only other income you can receive with CERB is from a province or territory that has implemented support payments in response to Covid-19.

If you are receiving any other type of income, you’re not eligible.

Here is a breakdown for different situations:

Eligible

  • Laid-off because of Covid-19, do or don’t qualify for EI
  • Sick with Covid-19, do or don’t qualify for EI
  • Hours reduced to zero because of virus, either employed or self-employed; do or don’t qualify for EI
  • Taking care of a relative sick with Covid-19
  • Taking care of your children because of schools/daycares closure
  • EI benefits exhausted after March 15th, still not working and earning income
  • Receiving other Covid-19 support payments from province/territory

Not eligible

  • Still working and receiving income
  • No longer working but paid by employer (lucky you!)
  • Employer on wage subsidy program, i.e. paying you
  • Hours reduced but not eliminated, still receiving partial income
  • Job slated to start soon, including students with Summer jobs
  • Receiving any EI benefits: employment, sickness, maternal/parental
  • Receiving pension or income from RRIF
  • Receiving income assistance
  • Receiving disability payments from insurance co. or gvt
  • Students who didn’t have jobs prior to Covid-19
  • Stay-at-home parents prior to Covid-19
  • People who resigned/voluntarily quit job
  • Loss of income/job for other reasons than Covid-19 or prior to March 15th (apply for EI, if you qualify)
  • Unemployed & not on EI prior to March 15th, even if job-searching
  • On unpaid leave of any kind, i.e. not working, not earning
  • Didn’t earn 5K in 2019

As you can see, a lot of people will not qualify for CERB. Many Canadians might be in for a rude awakening.

It’s unclear if you would qualify if a job offer is rescinded due to Covid-19. I guess it would depend on your situation when you accepted the offer.

If you’re eligible for EI, apply for EI first

Technically, you could apply for CERB first, even if you’re eligible for EI. But it’s best to apply for EI first.

It will provide you with benefits for an additional period of time. Once your claim is up, you can then apply for CERB if you’re still not working, and the program is still available.

It’s also unclear whether you will be redirected to Service Canada when applying for CERB and being eligible for EI.

If you have already applied for EI, you don’t need to apply for CERB.

Amount, length and taxes

The amount is a flat $ 2 000/month, regardless of how much you made prior to applying.

It’s available for a maximum of 4 months. You need to re-apply every month.

This benefit is taxable, however CRA will not withhold any income tax.

No documentation required…yet

Upon applying, you only need to certify you meet the eligibility criteria.

However, CRA may ask you for documentation later on. Keep this in mind, particularly if you want to game the system…

Final word

There will be cases that are not listed above. Further clarifications may also be addressed later on. If you apply for CERB, please share your experience by commenting below.

“Here for you” is all relative

Fanshawe Student Success – Here For You - YouTube

If you live in Canada, you’ve probably received lots of e-mails from your financial institution and other service providers letting you know they are “here for you” in these uncertain times.

I certainly have. I found these messages to be anxiety-producing, to be honest.

But, what does “here for you” actually mean? Perhaps, it’s not what you may think….

Blatant marketing

At the urge of the Federal Government, all 5 Canadian big banks announced they would offer up to 6 month of mortgage payment deferral to the most vulnerable people.

Many other lenders followed suit. Details were sparse, and when pressed for more information said lenders and big 5 refused to elaborate, saying each situation would be evaluated on a “case-by-case basis”.

Case per case basis is also all relative…

CBC has already reported many customers have faced outright denials or ridiculous processes and timelines.

How is that supposed to be helpful?

There is no free lunch

Whether it’s deferring your mortgage, car payment, personal loan or cell phone bill, lenders and service providers are not charities.

I understand you may be in a dire situation and panicking.

However, before you agree to a deferral, you also need to ask the following questions:

  1. How much is it going to cost me? Interests will most likely still accrue during the deferral period. You may also be charged administrative fees.
  2. How will it impact my credit score and file? Lenders could treat the deferral as missed payments on your credit file. Down the road, it will negatively impact you.

Final word

“Here for you”. Honestly, Canadians don’t need platitudes and empty promises. Right now, a lot of us need actual, tangible help.

Coronavirus and your expenses (with a BC twist)

Image result for paying bills

Pandemic or no pandemic, we all have bills to pay….unfortunately. If, like many people, you are already feeling the pinch financially, let me give you some advice on which bills to pay first and any assistance that might be available to you.

Since I live in British Columbia, I will provide information about the provincial government economical response to Covid-19.

Also, some of the advice I’m about to give is controversial, and may completely go against conventional wisdom. You’ve been warned!

It’s all about prioritizing your payments

When you lost your job or your working hours have been reduced, you can’t keep living the same way than when you were fully employed.

I know it sounds obvious, but many people still live and spend as if nothing had happened. You can’t routinely spend $150 per week on take-out or clothes when you have no, or little income.

# 1. Cut unnecessary payments

It’s pointless to contribute to your RRSP, TFSA or RESP if you can’t pay your rent or your mortgage. Same goes with charity contributions. You need to help yourself first before helping others.

#2. Paying your credit card balances

Like many people, you probably have several credit cards; and like many people you may be carrying a balance on a few if not all of them.

If you happen to have a Line of Credit -LOC-, transfer your credit cards’ balance there. The interest rate on LOCs is lower than the one on credit cards. Most LOCs are also interest-payment only.

Afterwards, only use 1 credit card for your purchases. It will limit the number of monthly payments.

If you don’t have a LOC, check if one your credit cards offer a 0% interest transfer or a low interest one. Many credit cards give their customers the possibility to transfer balances from other credit cards with 0% interest for 3 or sometimes 6 months.

Afterwards, only use 1 credit card for your purchases. If you can keep using the one you transferred balances on, it’s even better. You’ll only have one payment to make.

If you are in a dire situation, only make the minimum payment. It will keep your accounts current, while buying you some time.

# 3. Paying rent

Unfortunately, renters are the forgotten of the Federal Government financial package.

If you live in BC, a moratorium has been implemented on both evictions and rent increases. In addition, renters can claim up to $ 500/month. That amount will be paid directly to landlords.

Your rent is definitely the one payment you really need to make. If need be, you may take money from a LOC or a credit card to do so. You need a roof over your head!

# 4. Paying the mortgage

If you are an owner, you have a few more options. Many lenders offer options to skip payment or take a “mortgage vacation”. Contact your lender directly. Note these options are not free. Interests will still accrue.

This is also a payment I suggest you try to make as much as possible.

Should you be unable to make payments, it will take months before your lender takes action. Foreclosure proceedings take well over a year.

# 5. Paying for daycare

In BC, the provincial government is picking-up the tab for licensed day cares and private, family ones. It means you don’t have to make payments and your child retains her spot.

I don’t know about other provinces. If there is no disposition, negotiate with your provider. Ask for reduced fees since you’re not using the service.

# 6. Paying other bills

Hydro: BC Hydro is no longer disconnecting service for non-payment. In addition the corporation has a crisis fund to assist customers who can’t pay their bills. Other provinces probably have dispositions as well. I wouldn’t worry too much about that particular bill.

Car lease/loan: I’m afraid you may not have many options here if you can’t pay. Call your lender or dealership. If it’s a possibility and as a last resort, you may need to part with your car. Either sell it, or if have a lease, obtain a buy-out. In BC, repossession is not automatic and usually takes months.

Cell phone/cable/internet: It will also take a few months before your provider disconnects services and/or send your account to collections. Telus is no longer disconnecting at the moment. Many providers also offer payment plans. Don’t worry too much about this bill.

Student loans: the federal government has suspended both payments and interests for the next 6 months. The BC government has done the same.

Strata/ HOA fees: it will also take months for your strata to go after you on these.

# 7. What about income taxes?

If you’re entitled to a refund, file now.

If you owe money, defer until June 1st and pay by August 31st. CRA is no longer charging interests for late payment.

Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting you default on all your payments, or that you let your home be foreclosed. What I am suggesting however, is that you buy time if you are in a dire situation.

Don’t beat yourself up if you have to use credit to pay for your bills, or if you have to miss some payments in order to keep a roof over your head and food on the table….

Coronavirus and your income (or lack thereof)

Image result for unemployment

UPDATE: the 2 benefits previously announced by the Federal Govt have been combined into one: Canada Emergency Response Benefit or CERB. More info here .

As we are in uncertain times worldwide, many Canadians are already feeling the pinch, financially. Last week alone, Service Canada registered about half a million new EI claims. Many people are also in quarantine.

I thought it would be a good idea to summarize the different options available in Canada for everyone impacted by the pandemic.

# 1. I lost my job/was laid-off

If you have lost your job due to a shortage of work, you need to apply for EI as soon as you have your Record Of Employment -ROE-. All applications are done online, here. Do not visit a Service Canada office, as the employees cannot process your application manually and will send you home.

In order to qualify for EI benefits, you need to have worked a minimum of hours. That number depends on your province of residence.

If you’re not sure you qualify, apply anyway. Service Canada will get back to you either way. Don’t bother calling them at this stage, you probably won’t get through. Just saying.

A few years ago, the entire EI application system was moved to automatic processing. It is pretty straightforward and fairly fast, about 1 week. The Federal government also waived the 1-week waiting period, so all new claimants will be paid an extra week.

The only caveat to this is if your application can’t be processed automatically. If it has to go through a manual review and approval, you will need to be patient as it could take a few weeks before you hear anything.

#2. I lost my job but don’t qualify for EI

You’ll have to apply for the Emergency Support Benefit. Applications open in April. At the time of writing, no information is available on eligibility. All we know is that Canada Revenue Agency will manage the program.

#3. I am self-employed and had to temporarily close my business

If you’re self-employed, you won’t qualify for EI, even if you are registered to the special benefits for self-employed people program.

You’ll have to apply for the Emergency Support Benefit. Applications open in April.

#4. I am sick with the virus and in quarantine

If you have short-term disability insurance via your company benefit plan or you are paying for it yourself, apply with your insurer. You will definitely need a doctor’s note, but it’s best to apply for short-term disability rather than sick benefits under EI. It will be quicker, and the amount paid to you will be higher than EI.

If you don’t have such insurance, apply for EI sickness benefit here. This benefit is also available to self-employed people registered to the special benefits program.

Both works for any sickness, BTW.

If you don’t qualify for sickness benefits, you’ll have to apply for the Emergency Care benefit. Applications also open in April. At the time of writing, no information is available on eligibility. All we know is that Canada Revenue Agency will manage the program.

#5. I have to stay home to take care of my children or a relative sick with the virus

You’ll have to apply for the Emergency Care benefit. Applications open in April.

# 6. I’m having a baby!

Congratulations! Stay safe. When you stop working, apply for maternity and parental benefits here. You’ll need your Record of Employment -ROE- and to have work a minimum of hours to qualify.

This benefit is also available to self-employed people registered to the special benefits program.

You’ll also be eligible for the Canada Child Benefit -CCB-.

Final word

There are definitely options for almost everyone. As you can see, however, you have to apply to receive financial assistance. Nothing is automatic.

Service Canada advises not to wait to apply for benefits. If you wait for more than 4 weeks, your claim may be denied.

Coronavirus: Canadian economy edition

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In light of the pandemic caused by the coronavirus, the Canadian government announced an unprecedented economic package to help as many Canadians as possible during these turbulent times.

It is unprecedented, indeed. Even in during the Great Recession of 2008, the measures implemented were nowhere close to what we’re seeing now. This crisis was actually much more severe than the current one.

Many people -whether experts or not- are decreeing the world is in recession, but it’s actually too early to make that call. In economy, a recession is a temporary period during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.

We’re not there yet, folks.

This pandemic is not going to last forever

Like all the ones we’ve had before -and we’ve had a few!-, it will stop at some point. It’s usually a matter of months or a little over a year, at most. Let’s look at the previous 2, most recent pandemics:

  • H1N1: Apr 2009- Aug 2010
  • SARS: Nov 2002-July 2003

As you can see, they didn’t last for years. Right now, China is at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time of writing, this country hasn’t reported any new cases for the last couple of days.

Anyhow, let’s go back to the crux of this post:

Canadian personal finances

As I was saying above, the federal government announced a list of extended measures to help Canadians:

  • Removal of the 1-week waiting period for all new EI claims
  • Emergency Care benefit: for workers who don’t have paid sick days, don’t qualify for EI and have to stay home to care for their family or themselves -$450/week for up to 15 weeks-
  • Emergency Support benefit: for anyone who doesn’t qualify for EI and lost their job or had to temporarily close their business -$450/week up to 15 weeks-
  • Tax-filing deadline has been extended to June 30th, with payments to be made by Aug 31.
  • Boost to the Canada Child Benefit, up to $ 300.
  • Additional GST rebate, amount unknown at this stage
  • 6-month moratorium on federal student loans
  • Lower amount of mandatory withdrawals for RRIF holders

For businesses:

  • Deferral of tax payments until Aug 31
  • Wage subsidy: up to 10% of an employee’s pay, maximum 25K per employer
  • Ease of borrowing through BDC and EDC
  • CRA has also suspended its audits and re-assessments on businesses

Something for almost everyone

This has to be one the most comprehensive program I ever seen in Canada. It’s pretty extended.

However, many details are still blurry at this stage. We don’t know what will be required to qualify for these various programs. Both the Emergency Care and Support benefits are not available yet. Applications will open on April 1st.

It is also expected it will take a few weeks for claimants to actually start receiving money. That’s when an emergency fund comes in handy!

Unfortunately, our most vulnerable population is excluded from these announcements….It may fall on provincial governments to handle -and pay for- them.

Many banks, as well as CHMC, have also committed to helping people who may have difficulties with their mortgage payments. The details are also unknown and will probably be on a case-per-case basis.

We’re definitely not sure of how long this coronavirus will linger and the depth of its economic, health and social impact.

However, we will get through this, the same way we got through previous pandemics, economic turmoils and recessions. The world is not going to end! In the meantime, keep calm and carry-on…..