Canada’s federal government is throwing some hefty gobs of cash and other support at the COVID-19 health and economic catastrophe the country and the world is trying to contain.
With a million or more Canadians suddenly out of work as public life grinds to a halt, Ottawa is rushing to get income relief out to families and individuals that may soon struggle to make rent or buy groceries. The vast majority of job losses have been, and will continue to be, those who earn the least.
The federal government is also propping up businesses, offering wage subsidies, extending credit and providing tax relief in hopes these employers will be able to retain staff during the shutdown or quickly re-hire them whenever life gets back to some kind of normal.
The provinces have also been scrambling, both to ramp up COVID-19 containment and mitigation efforts — to slow the spread and get hospitals and health-care systems ready for an expected surge in infected patients — and also to offer their own support to businesses and laid-off workers, parents, homeowners, renters and other specific groups.
There’s been some meaningful variance in their approaches. National Observer looked at who gets what based on where they live.
Everyone across the land
(population 37.9 million, GDP $2.2 trillion)
The federal Liberal government will pay up to $2,000 a month for four months for Canadians whose working lives are disrupted by COVID-19, part of the $52 billion in direct financial aid (and $107 billion in total) tallied in the government's economic plan, which became law on Wednesday.
It is aiming to get the cash out by the middle of May, while a $300 increase to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) also lands in May.
Provinces have taking different approaches to support people hit by COVID-19. National Observer took a look at who gets what based on where they live.
Ottawa is also planning a one-time payment by early May for some 12 million people earning low or modest incomes, which for a single parent with two children could equate to $1,500.
Single people receiving the Goods and Services Tax credit will get an almost $400 boost and couples close to $600.
Ottawa is also moving to ensure mortgage payments can be deferred, while the Bank of Canada has slashed interest rates in a bid to keep credit moving. It has frozen federal student loan payments for six months, a move most provinces have echoed.
On Friday, the federal government upped a small business wage subsidy to 75 per cent from an initial 10 per cent. On Monday it was expanded to all employers, regardless of size.
The federal NDP is calling for the Liberals to go further, including by working with other levels of government to enforce a country-wide moratorium on evictions and rent, mortgage and utility payments, and to force banks to waive interest fees and charges on credit cards, bank loans, lines of credit and mortgages for at least the next two payment cycles.
(population 14.7 million, GDP $857 billion)
The Ford government did not provide a direct cash payment for those unable to work in last week's COVID-19-focused fiscal update.
The Progressive Conservatives will, however, make a one-off payment of $200 per child under 12 (and $250 for children with special needs) to parents dealing with an indefinite closure of schools in the province.
It did not provide any direct relief specifically for renters either, although Ontario has enforced an eviction freeze.
The 194,000 low-income seniors currently paid by the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) will see maximum payments double to up to $166 per month for individuals and $332 per month for couples. That boost will last for six months, starting in April.
Those with student debt via provincial program OSAP will get a payment deferral for six months. Ontario is also delaying payments usually collected from municipalities so they can defer property taxes, and switching all electricity pricing to off-peak rates for 45 days.
The government is spending $50 million to provide emergency payments to people already enrolled in Ontario Works income support programs, and $148 million to support food banks and other community organisations.
The government says it will spend $3 million a day to provide emergency childcare for 57,000 first responders dealing with COVID-19 for as long as the crisis lasts.
In total, the province’s plan provides $3.3 billion in additional health-care resources, $3.7 billion to support people and jobs, and $10 billion in indirect measures.
That includes $6 billion of relief to businesses by deferring most of their provincial tax remittances for five months. It also boosted an existing health tax exemption for smaller employers (specifically, those with payroll less than $5 million) from $490,000 to $1 million.
Ford also sought to target some specific relief outside of Ottawa and the Greater Toronto Area, with a 10 per cent refundable income tax credit for business spending elsewhere in the province.
(population 8.5 million, GDP $439 billion)
Quebec is paying those in self-isolation who cannot access federal emergency assistance. Eligible people will receive $573 per week for 14 days, or up to a month based on a resident’s health. Applications for the province’s Temporary Aid for Workers Program opened on March 19.
The province had, two days earlier, extended tax deadlines and postponed tax payments for individuals and businesses to Sept. 1, and urged those expecting a tax return to file quickly in response to COVID-19.
It is also making $2.5 billion available to businesses in need of liquidity to help them keep operating. All industries will be eligible for this emergency program which will provide a minimum $50,000 loan or loan guarantee who can demonstrate their likely to be profitable after the crisis. It has also put a three-month moratorium on payments towards current business loans.
Hydro-Québec suspended charges for unpaid power bills for individuals and businesses starting March 23, 2020, and has invited customers to discuss alternative payment plans.
The province established police checkpoints on the weekend to isolate eight regions, with travel only allowed for essential purposes.
(population 5.1 million, GDP $295 billion)
John Horgan’s NDP government has said they’ll make a $1,000 one-time payment to anyone whose employment has been affected by COVID-19, accounting for most of its $1.1 billion in income supports.
The cash injection is part of a $5 billion action plan that the provincial government last updated on March 23. The plan is made up of $2.8 billion to help people and fund services and $2.2 billion for corporate relief.
The province is leaving it to the feds to determine who gets the cash, since the payments will be a top-up for those also receiving federal Employment Insurance (EI) or other federal emergency benefits.
Applications will open this month and payments will be made in May.
B.C. has also offered to pay up to $500 a month for four months of rent directly to landlords on behalf of their tenants and called a halt to evictions. It has boosted the payout of its climate action tax credit fivefold, to $564 for an eligible family of four and $218 for individuals.
It will spend $1.7 billion on public services including health, housing and shelters, and disability assistance, and pay licensed child care providers an average of almost $20,000 a month to cover operations even if closed, a seven-fold jump from typical funding.
Student loan payments are being frozen for six months starting March 30, while a string of taxes have been deferred until the end of September. These include the province’s sales tax, its employer health tax, and carbon tax, the latter of which was scheduled to rise on April 1. A decision on when the carbon tax might next be tightened will also be made by the end of September.
BC Hydro is offering up to $600 for customers dealing with job loss, illness or loss of wages due to COVID-19.
The government said this weekend it was sending an extra $3 million to B.C. food banks.
The provincial government announced Sunday it would be supplying the emergency grant to Food Banks British Columbia, which will in turn distribute the money to food banks across B.C.
(population 4.4 million, GDP $344 billion)
Similarly to Quebec, Alberta's Kenney government has announced a payment plan for those who must self-isolate. Its Emergency Isolation Support grant of $1,146 over two weeks is to bridge Albertans to federal benefits. It will cost the province about $50 million.
Applications opened on March 25, and payment will be made within 24 to 48 hours via e-transfer, the Kenney government said.
It has said it will spend an extra $500 million to deal with the COVID-19 health crisis and channel $60 million to charities and others supporting seniors and other vulnerable groups.
The United Conservative Party government said on the weekend will be redirecting $128 million dollars of funding for K-12 schools into the province's COVID-19 response. The temporary measure means thousands of school staff will be laid off while schools are closed.
It has also said that the 753,000 customers of Alberta Treasury Branches (ATB Financial — a Crown agency) can apply for a deferral on loans, lines of credit, and mortgages for up to six months.
Alberta will let residential, farm and small commercial customers defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for three months, and has given a six-month reprieve from provincial student loan payments.
It has sought to bolster the province’s energy industry, including by extending a $100-million loan to the Orphan Well Association and $113 million in industry relief for the Alberta Energy Regulator.
(population 1.2 mln, GDP $80.7 billion)
Saskatchewan wIll provide $900 over two weeks for those forced to self-isolate that are not covered by the federal measures. The program is mostly targeted at the self-employed and is expected to cost $10 million. Its March 18 budget did not contain extra COVID-19 spending.
It expects to defer the collection of some $750 million in sales tax for three months.
SaskPower has suspended collections and ended disconnections.
(population 1.4 million, GDP $72.7 billion)
Manitoba’s budget, released on March 19, also did not make any specific reference to measures being taken in regard to COVID-19.
Two days later, the province declared a state of emergency and said eligible early childhood educators would each receive up to $3,000 in an $18-million program to provide home or community care to children. That’s part of a $27.6 million plan to help provide child care to front-line workers battling COVID-19.
It has since extended business tax filing deadlines for businesses with monthly payroll of less than $10,000 by two months, meaning some 20,000 businesses can for now hold on to remittances of sales and payroll tax due in April and May.
(population 977,000, GDP $44 billion)
Nova Scotians on income assistance are receiving an extra $50 with each payment as of March 20.
Provincial agency Feed Nova Scotia is getting $1 million to buy food and hire more staff, while $230,000 of emergency funding will help vulnerable older adults.
The province is also deferring all government loan payments until the end of June, and student loan payment until the end of September. It will pay its own invoices to small businesses within five days instead of the standard 30 days.
Police in Halifax have meanwhile starting issuing fines to people breaching emergency measures that have closed many public areas.
(population 780,000, GDP $37 billion)
Workers and the self-employed hit by COVID-19 can access one-time payments of $900 aimed at bridging the gap between the loss of work and federal benefits kicking in.
The province has also committed to covering the child-care fees of anyone who has lost their income, including “double fees” incurred by essential workers. This includes workers paying to reserve a space at their usual child care facility while their child is attending an emergency child care facility.
Newfoundland and Labrador
(population 520,000, GDP $33 billion)
Province promises to cover the cost of childcare for parents, who were being asked to pay even though daycare centres have been forced to shut. It estimates cost of $4.9 million a month.
It has deferred payments on business loans administered by the Innovation and Business Investment Corporation by three months.
Prince Edward Island
(population 158,000, GDP $7 billion)
PEI will pay up to $250 per week to employers whose workers kept their jobs but worked at least 8 hours less per week between March 16-29. It is offering $500 per week to self-employed people hit by COVID-19 in that same timeframe.
PEI announced a $25 million COVID-19 Emergency Contingency Fund on March 16 to support workers and small businesses.