COVID-19 Alberta: Financial FAQs and Resources

As COVID-19 sweeps across Alberta and the rest of the world, it’s understandable to feel scared or anxious about what the financial impact of all this may have on the economy and your bank account. Money Mentors would like to assure you that we are continuing to provide the vital service of debt and credit counselling during this difficult time. Our commitment to the health and safety of our clients, team and community remains paramount. As a precaution to help limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and support the efforts of social distancing, we are responding in the following ways:

  1. All staff members who have travelled outside Canada recently, are experiencing flu-like symptoms, or think they have been exposed to COVID-19 are staying home for the recommended 14-day period until they are symptom free.
  2. We ask that clients who are feeling unwell, have a cough or fever, or have travelled outside Canada within the last 14 days reschedule any in-person meetings and not visit our offices. Please take care of yourself and follow Public Health guidelines.
  3. A no handshaking policy has been implemented as part of social distancing.
  4. Our Calgary and Edmonton offices have been treated with Aegis, a non-toxic, non-leaching anti-bacterial and virus mitigating product, focused on high touch surfaces. In addition, we have increased the frequency of cleaning in our offices.
  5. Counselling sessions have moved to phone or Skype. We are doing everything possible to accommodate your needs to reschedule appointments.

 

How do I access financial assistance during COVID-19?

If you have been affected by COVID-19 and require financial support during this time, here is a comprehensive list of resources to look further into for individuals:

Federal government financial support

 

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

Eligibility:

  • Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old
  • Who have stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits
  • Who had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application
  • Who are or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period. For subsequent benefit periods, they expect to have no employment income.

How much: $500 a week, for up to 16 weeks

How to apply: Application will be available April 6, 2020. Applications can be made through Service Canada or CRA. You can apply through one or the other, but not both. If you do not have an account, create one through CRA or Service Canada ahead of the application open date. Once you have an account, make sure to enter in your banking/direct deposit information, so you can receive your CERB benefit quicker.

Learn more

Note: If you have already applied for EI regular benefits or EI sickness benefits, and the application has not yet been processed, you do NOT need to submit a new application for CERB. If you already started receiving EI benefits, your benefits will not be interrupted, and you do NOT need to apply to CERB.

 

Increase to Canada Child Tax Benefit

Eligibility: Primary caregivers of children under 18

How much: An additional $300 per child for 2019-2020

How to apply: No application necessary for families who already receive the Canada Child Benefit, additional benefit will be delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment in May

Learn more

Note: If you are eligible to receive GST credit, file your 2019 tax returns as soon as possible to ensure your entitlements are properly determined

 

Goods and Services Tax (GST) Credit (One Time Special Payment)

Eligibility: Most Canadian residents over 19 years old are eligible

How much: Average additional benefit will be approximately $400 for individuals and $600 for couples

How to apply: No application necessary, if you are eligible, you will receive it automatically

Learn more

Note: If you are eligible to receive GST credit, file your 2019 tax returns as soon as possible to ensure your entitlements are properly determined

 

Reduced Minimum Withdrawals for RRIFs

The required minimum withdrawal from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) will be reduced by 25% in 2020 in recognition of the impact of volatile market conditions on many seniors’ retirement savings.

 

Alberta provincial government financial support

 

Emergency Isolation Support

Eligibility: Albertans who must self-isolate due to COVID-19 or are caring for a dependent who must self-isolate and do not have another source of income during self-isolation period

How much: One-time payment of $1,146 per individual

Learn more

Note: The Emergency Isolation Support is meant to provide bridging funds until federal support becomes available, and therefore it will only be available until early April, when the federal CERB payment will begin accepting applications.

 

Bill payment deferrals

 

Both the Federal and Provincial Governments have announced deferrals for the following payments:

Federal and provincial student loans

  • Student loans repayments will be paused for 6 months beginning March 30, 2020
  • Interest will not accrue during this period
  • You do not need to apply for the repayment to pause
  • You can continue to make payments if you wish during this period, it will not affect your eligibility to receive the benefit

 

Mortgages and bank loans

  • ATB Financial Customers (Customers can contact ATB to apply for payment deferral of their mortgages, lines of credit or loans for up to 6 months)
  • TD, BMO, CIBC, NBC, RBC, Scotiabank (Customers can contact their bank directly to apply for payment deferral of mortgages and relief on other credit products)
  • All other banking institutions or credit unions (Contact your bank to discuss your options)

 

Utility payments

  • Residential customers can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for 90 days between March 18 and June 18, 2020
  • Contact your provider to defer

 

Income taxes

  • Deadline for filing 2019 taxes has been delayed to June 1, 2020 (if you will receive benefits under the GSTC or Child Benefit, file early to determine your eligibility to additional benefits due to COVID-19)
  • Income tax payments that are due on or after March 18, 2020 through to September 2020 can be deferred until after August 31, 2020

 

Financial support for businesses are being provided through the Federal Government at this time. For the most up to date information on business supports (such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Work-Sharing Program and Credit Programs), visit the Government of Canada website.

 

As the situation with COVID-19 is rapidly changing, consult the Government of Alberta website and the Government of Canada website directly for new information on financial support.

 

How can Money Mentors help?

Money Mentors is dedicated to walking alongside you through every stage of your life―including this particularly difficult one. If you require debt help, credit counselling or money coaching to help you manage your money and get your finances back on track, we are only a phone call away! While we aren’t scheduling in-person appointments at this time, our counsellors would be more than happy to chat with you over the phone or via Skype, so you can feel confident about where your money is taking you and less stressed about your financial future. Book your appointment today!

If you are self-isolating or in quarantine right now, we have lots of ways to keep you busy during this time. Our $500 Incentive Program is going strong and you can enter our monthly draws by successfully completing our free online courses! From budgeting, tackling debt, planning for retirement, surviving a layoff or understanding credit, we have lots of online courses for you to choose from and enhance your financial literacy.

For parents looking for ways to enrich their children’s financial education during this time, we encourage you to complete our free online course, Enrich Your Kids, to learn effective ways to teach your children about money and set them up for financial success. We also have an online Youth Spending Plan to help your children manage their money better and an online game designed to teach youth the importance of making sound financial decisions. And if you’re looking for ways to further your child’s financial education while aligned with the Alberta school curriculum, we have lots of free extension activities for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

 

Financial tips to help you through this COVID-19 crisis

 

Be aware of COVID-19 scams

Unfortunately, there are fraudsters preying on Canadian’s fears, misinformation and distress, taking advantage of vulnerable people during this time. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has listed all the COVID-19 scams they’re aware of at this time, so please familiarize yourself with them so you don’t become the next victim. And if you’d like to learn more about fraud detection and prevention, we have a free online course so you can protect yourself.

 

COVID-19 FAQs for Orderly Payment of Debts (OPD) clients

Can I defer my OPD payment?

If you are struggling with your OPD payment due to Covid-19 or any other issue, please call us to discuss options. We are here to help!

 

I hear that government/student loans/other creditors are deferring payments for Albertans. Does that affect my OPD program?

While we cannot defer payments for the OPD program, we do have measures in place to assist you to lower your payment or set it to zero temporarily. Once you are back to work, your counsellor will work with you on how to get your program back on track.

 

I’m getting emails from my creditors stating they are deferring payments―does this mean my OPD payment will be reduced?

We cannot pick and choose which creditor we disburse money to, so any payments you make will be split fairly amongst all your creditors. We do have the ability to assist with temporary payment arrangements and we will advocate on your behalf in the unlikely event of a creditor calling about the reduced payment. We will need to speak with you to set this up, so please contact us today.

 

Will I be penalized if I have to miss 3 months of payments?

We understand these are tough times. We ask that if you are at the point where you have missed 3 payments, please call us so we can set up a payment arrangement with you. As many Albertans are faced with the same challenges, we are committed to helping you become debt-free.

 

Will I need to catch these payments up?

With the OPD program, all arrears that accumulate remain on your program as it is a court order. However, we work with all our clients who are struggling and will come up with an option that is best for you. We will also discuss if there are any other options that may be more suitable based on your current situation.

 

Will Money Mentors stop the 5% interest on the OPD program?

We cannot stop interest on your OPD program. Some creditors may choose to forego interest at the end and if that is the case, they will notify us.

 

Take care, everyone!

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