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

 

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.
  • Individuals earning less than $1000 per month as a result of COVID-19
  • Seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020, and are unable to undertake regular seasonal work due to COVID-19
  • Workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020, and are unable to find a job due to COVID-19

How much: $500 a week, for up to 24 weeks

How to apply: Effective 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. Applications can also be made over the phone by calling 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041.

Learn more

Days to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit:

If you are currently receiving the CERB, and your situation continues past 4 weeks, you will need to apply for the CERB again.

Eligibility periods: An eligibility period is a fixed 4-week payment period. Each period has a preset start and end date. This means when you apply for the CERB, you will receive a payment for a specific 4-week period.

Mark these dates in your calendar:

2    April 12, 2020 to May 9, 2020
3    May 10, 2020 to June 6, 2020
4    June 7, 2020 to July 4, 2020
5    July 5, 2020 to August 1, 2020
6    August 2, 2020 to August 29, 2020
7    August 30, 2020 to September 26, 2020

If your situation continues, you can re-apply for another 4-week period, up to a maximum of 6 periods (or 24 weeks in total).

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) Over payments:
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.

AISH and Income Support recipients who have lost work and income because of COVID-19 can exempt a portion of the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), if they receive it. This means a portion of the CERB payment will not affect their provincial benefits. Find out more.

Note: On May 25th the Alberta Government made changes to the Centralized AISH application process. 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

Learn more

 

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.

 

Support to seniors

A one-time tax-free payment of $300 for seniors eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, with an additional $200 for seniors eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). This measure would give a total of $500 to individuals who are eligible to receive both the OAS and the GIS and will help them cover increased costs caused by COVID-19.

Learn more

 

 

Canadian Hospitality Worker Relief Fund

Eligibility:

  • Are over the age of 18
  • Have worked in the hospitality industry, including food delivery workers, for at least 90 days in the past year
  • Have their primary source of income in the restaurant or lodging industry
  • Have experienced a decrease in wages or loss of job on or after March 10, 2020
  • Have the ability to accept electronic transfer payments (ie. Interac e-transfers)

How much: $500 one-time grants to eligible hospitality workers on a first-come, first-served basis

How to apply: Applications open on May 6th at 12 PM (ET), 9 AM (PT)

Learn more

 

 

Student financial assistance

 

Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)

Eligibility: Students and new graduates who are not eligible for CERB or EI or are unable to work due to COVID-19

How much: $1250 per month from May to August 2020 or $1750 per month for eligible students with dependents or disabilities

How to apply: Applications open on May 15th at 4 AM (MST)

Learn more

 

Emergency Bursary or Emergency Loan

If you are a current university or college student in Alberta, your institution or student union may offer an Emergency Bursary or Emergency Loan if you are experiencing financial difficulty. Check with your institution for eligibility and to apply.

 

Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG)

Eligibility: Students who choose to do national service and serve their communities

How much: Up to $5,000 for their education in the fall

How to apply: TBA

Learn more

 

Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP)

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

How much: Doubled the Canada Student Grants for eligible full-time students to up to $6,000, and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21. Grants for students with disabilities or dependents have also been doubled.

How to apply: Applications can be made on the Government of Canada website

Learn more

 

Student Volunteers

Eligibility: Post-secondary students and recent graduates

How much: One-time payment of up to $5,000 for volunteering in pandemic-related programs. Canada Student Service Grant program offers students and graduates $1,000 for every 100 hours volunteered.

Learn more

 

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

 

 

Support for Canadians with Disabilities

Eligibility: Special one-time, tax-free payment to individuals who are certificate holders of the Disability Tax Credit as of June 1, 2020

How much: $600 for Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate; $300 for Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate and who are eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension; $100 for Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate and who are eligible for the OAS pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)

How to Apply: No application necessary. If you are eligible, you will receive it automatically.

Learn more

 

 

Bill payment deferrals

 

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

 

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.

 

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 (such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Work-Sharing Program and Credit Programs), 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.

 

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.

 

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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