Posted April 7, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, the response from both the federal government and government of Ontario has been historic and unprecedented. Both governments have introduced initiatives over the past few weeks, with new measures and changes to legislation or policy announced on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. PooranLaw has been closely monitoring these developments, and has been posting regular, in-depth updates in our COVID 19 Resource Centre. We have compiled a high-level overview of measures that may be of specific interest to you in our “Government Benefits Roundup” – below.
PROVINCIAL ASSISTANCE: Addressing Social Assistance Benefits, Supports for Families & Students
Increase in ODSP and OW Support during COVID-19 Pandemic
The government of Ontario has made a one-time discretionary increase available to people receiving Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak. The additional funding may be used to meet a broad range of needs, including food, clothing, transportation or cleaning supplies.
To access the benefit, ODSP and OW recipients may contact their caseworkers for additional information. OW recipients may also access the benefit through online applications such as MyBenefits or online at Ontario.ca/community. Note that the benefit is discretionary and may vary from region to region.
Find the Ontario announcement here.
For persons who are not able to access federal assistance to cover essential needs such as the costs of food, medicine and rent, the government of Ontario has expanded access to Emergency Assistance under Ontario Works. Individuals may apply for the assistance online at Ontario.ca/community or through local Ontario Works offices.
Support for Families
To assist parents in paying the extra costs associated with school and daycare closures due to COVID-19, the government of Ontario has pledged a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 per child with “special needs” up to 21 years of age, including children enrolled in private schools. Families may complete an online application to access the support. For more, click here.
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) Moratorium
The government of Ontario has established a six-month interest free moratorium on the repayment of OSAP Loans from March 30, 2020 to September 30, 2020, with no accrual of interest. For more, click here.
FEDERAL ASSISTANCE: Introduction of New Emergency Benefits & Strengthening of Existing Benefits
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
In response to the economic impact that the pandemic has caused, the Federal government has introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provides temporary income support to workers who have stopped working and are without employment or self-employment income for reasons related to COVID-19. The benefit amount of $2,000 will be paid in blocks of four weeks ($500 per week), up to a maximum of 16 weeks of benefits.
Canadians will be able to apply for the new CERB online in “My Account” (a secure portal that allows users to view personal income tax and benefit information and manage tax affairs online) or through the online CERB application. Users can log-in or register with the same sign-in information used for other online services such as the existing CRA account services or online banking. Canadians who do not wish to use online services may also apply for the new CERB using the automated phone line (1-800-959-8281) starting on April 6, 2020.
Read more on the CERB here.
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
The federal government will provide eligible businesses with subsidies of up to 75% of wages, including not-for-profits and charities. To be eligible to claim the benefit, businesses must have suffered a 30% drop in revenues. Note that individuals who receive a wage subsidy cannot receive the CERB. Read more about the federal wage subsidy here.
Child Care Benefit
The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to assist with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. Families who receive the CCB will see it increased by $300 per child for 2019-20. The increase will form part of the May payment of CCB. Read more about the CCB here.
GST/HST Tax Credit for Families
The federal government is also strengthening existing benefits, credits and supports. For instance, there will be a one-time special payment on April 9, 2020, which will double the maximum annual GST/HST credit payment amounts for the 2019-2020 benefit year. The good and services tax (GST) and harmonized sales tax (HST) credit is a tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset all or part of the GST/HST that they pay. Canadians will automatically receive the extra payment if they normally receive the GST/HST credit and have filed a 2018 tax return. Read more here.
Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) minimum withdrawal requirements will be reduced by 25% in recognition of the volatile market conditions and their impact on many senior citizens’ retirement savings. The aim of this measure is to provide more flexibility to seniors who are concerned they may be required to liquidate their RRIF assets to meet minimum withdrawal requirements. Similar rules apply to individuals who receive variable benefit payments from a defined contribution registered pension plan and pooled registered pension plan. Read more here.
Canada Student Loans Moratorium
In addition to the OSAP loans Moratorium, from March 30, 2020 to September 30, 2020, students will be able to defer their loan payments to Canada Student Loans until September 30, 2020, without accruing interest. Learn more here.
Canada’s big banks (Bank of Montreal, CIBIC, National Bank of Canada, Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD Bank), in addition to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), will allow customers to defer mortgage payments for up to six months, granted on a case-by-case basis. Canadians are encouraged to call their banks or visit their websites for more information. Learn more here.
Other Federal Benefits
Other changes include the suspension (but not cancellation) of collection activities on new debts and reduced interaction initiated by the CRA for post-assessment GST or HST or income tax audits with respect to small/medium businesses. As such, interaction with taxpayers will be limited to high risk and exceptional cases, or cases of high-risk GST/HST refund claims which require some contact before they can be paid out. Other audits are temporarily suspended. Additionally, the CRA will temporarily consider electronic signatures as complying with the signature requirements under the Income Tax Act.
Learn more about Canada’s Economic Response plan here.
Note: on April 6, 2020, the federal government announced that it would look into additional financial assistance for those who do not qualify for the CERB, such as students. PooranLaw will continue to monitor any further announcements and will provide information as it becomes available.
Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.