Man in Alberta financially impacted by covid-19 worries about debt

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

 

Transition from CERB to Employment Insurance (EI)

After CERB ends, the EI program is implementing temporary changes to help you access EI benefits. These changes will be in effect for 1 year.

Service Canada: If you still need income support after you have received the full CERB amount through Service Canada, in most cases, you do not need to apply for EI benefits.

Canada Revenue Agency: If you are currently receiving the CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and believe you are entitled to EI, you will need to apply through Service Canada after September 26.

Eligibility:

  • Were employed for at least 120 insurable hours in the past 52 weeks
  • Received the CERB, the 52 week period to accumulate insured hours will be extended
  • Stopped working through no fault of your own
  • Have not quit your job voluntarily
  • Are ready, willing and capable of working each day (EI regular benefits)
  • Are temporarily unable to work while you care for someone else or yourself (EI maternity, parental, sickness, compassionate care, and family caregiver benefits)

How much: $500 per week, or $300 per week for extended parental benefits

Learn more

 

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) overpayments

If you have received the CERB in error, you are encouraged to repay any over payment to avoid legal and tax consequences as soon as the mistake is discovered. You are obligated to repay over payments if you no longer meet the CERB eligibility criteria during the 4-week period in question. Learn more.

 

Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)

Eligibility: Workers who are self-employed or are not eligible for EI and who still require income support and who are available and looking for work. This benefit supports Canadians who have not returned to work due to COVID-19 or whose income has dropped by at least 50%. Workers must be available and looking for work, and must accept work where it is reasonable to do so.

How much: $500 per week for up to 26 weeks

How to apply: Applications open October 12th

Learn more

 

Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)

Eligibility: Workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19

How much: $500 per week for up to two weeks

Learn more

 

Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit

Eligibility: Workers who have been unable to work for at least 50% of their normally scheduled work within a given week because either they must take care of a child who is under 12 years of age or a family member who needs supervised care. This applies if their school, regular program or facility is closed or unavailable to them due to COVID-19, or because they’re sick, self-isolating, or at risk of serious health complications due to COVID-19.

How much: $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household. Effective from September 27, 2020 for one year.

Learn more

 

Wage boost for essential workers

All provinces and territories have confirmed, or are in the process of confirming, plans to cost share wage top-ups for their essential workers.

How to apply: Each province or territory will determine which workers would be eligible for support, and how much support they will receive

 

Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

Eligibility: Employers who had any drop in revenue may qualify for the wage subsidy

Learn more

 

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.

 

Updates on changes to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

Follow this link for updates on changes to services, due dates and programs affected by the pandemic.

 

Student financial assistance

 

Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP)

Eligibility: Full-time and part-time post-secondary students

How much: The amount you can receive depends on several factors, including your province or territory of residence, your family income, if you have dependents, your tuition fees and living expenses, and if you have a disability

Learn more

For a complete list of student financial assistance and programs, please visit the Government of Canada website and The Globe and Mail.

 

Bill payment deferrals

 

Mortgages and bank loans

Consumers have options available if they continue to have concerns over their mortgage payments. Financial institutions assess the eligibility criteria for mortgage deferrals on a case-by-case basis. Find out if you may be eligible for a mortgage deferral here.

  • 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

 

Auto insurance

  • Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) member companies are offering relief measures for consumers whose driving habits have changed as a result of social distancing measures
  • IBC member companies are offering reduction in auto insurance premiums for 90 days to reflect the reduced risk
  • Contact your insurance company directly to determine your eligibility

 

Other bill payments

  • Many companies, including telecom and private lending companies, have released a COVID-19 response statement for consumers that offers flexible payment options or financial relief for individuals whose income has been affected by the situation
  • Contact the service provider or company directly to determine your eligibility

 

Reduction in credit card interest rates

  • Major banks in Canada are offering a reduction in credit card interest rates for individuals who require financial relief during this time
  • Some banks are also offering minimum payment deferrals on credit card for up to 6 months
  • Contact your credit card company directly to determine if you qualify, and to apply

 

Additional resources

 

Service Canada Request Form

Given the closures of in-person Service Canada Center, if you need support with a critical federal service, fill out the service request form, and a Service Canada Representative will contact you at the phone number indicated to provide assistance. Service Canada has begun the gradual and safe reopening of in-person locations across the country. Find out if your local Service Canada Centre is open.

 

CBC COVID-19 Financial Resources Navigation Tool

A user-friendly navigation tool to help you determine your eligibility for individual and business benefits through your federal or provincial government.

 

Find financial help during COVID-19

Answer a few questions to get a list of benefits and support tailored to you.

 

Prosper Canada Financial Relief Navigator

To find out what benefits you could qualify for and how to apply, click here to access their COVID-19 benefits navigator.

 

COVID-19 Resources for Parents and Children

Children play an important role in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The resources in this link could help your child understand what is going on and how they can help.

 

Businesses

Financial support for businesses is being provided through the Federal Government at this time. For the most up to date information on business supports, visit the Government of Canada website.

Alberta Biz Connect

To help businesses and non-profits re-open safely, find more information and guidelines by clicking here.

 

 

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. As well, Service Canada has begun the gradual and safe reopening of in-person locations across the country. Find out if your local Service Canada Centre is open.

 

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

For more ways to save your money and protect your finances during this difficult time, click here.

 

Look after yourself

If you are struggling right now, you’re not alone! Alberta Health Services has created a wonderful hub for you to find resources and services to help you through this difficult time―from important phone numbers, self-help links, online resources and community supports. Mental Health Commission has also put together a great tip sheet to help seniors look after their mental health during COVID-19.

 

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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