In the past week, the Federal government announced a large aid and economic support package, and the Ontario government announced new legislation aimed at protecting workers.
Recent Federal Announcements
On March 18, the the federal government announced an $82 billion package of aid and economic supports in response to the COVID-19. More information can be found on the Government of Canada website: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html
Below is what we know about the aid package:
The federal government announced benefit programs for people who have lost their jobs or are away from work due to COVID-19:
Emergency Care Benefit: will provide up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks. This benefit is for people in one of the following categories:
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are sick or have been ordered to self-isolate, and don’t qualify for EI sick benefits;
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are actively taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, and don’t qualify for EI sick benefits;
- Working parents who must stay home from work without pay to care for children who are sick, or who need additional care because of school closures.
The application will be available in April through the Canada Revenue Agency website.
Emergency Support Benefit: will provide up to $450 per week for workers who do not qualify for EI, and who have lost their jobs or are facing reduced work hours due to COVID-19. We are waiting for more details on this program and how people can apply.
For workers who have lost their jobs but do qualify for EI, the government will:
- Waive the mandatory one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits for workers in imposed quarantine or who have been directed to self-isolate
- Waive the requirement for a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.
- Emergency Care Benefit: will provide up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks. This benefit is for people in one of the following categories:
A 6-month, interest-free moratorium on Canada student loan payments.
An increase to the Canada Child Benefit of up to $300 per child, coming in May 2020.
Additional assistance to individuals and families with low and modest incomes through a top-up of the GST tax credit (approx. $400 per individual; $600 per couple), coming in May 2020.
The deadline for filing income taxes has been extended to June 1, 2020 and the deadline for payments on any tax owing has been extended to September 1, 2020.
- Up to six month deferral on some mortgage payments. It is recommended that you contact your bank to discuss credit relief on mortgages, auto loans, etc.
Note: Some benefits will be distributed through the Canada Revenue Agency. This means that the CRA needs your current contact information. You can update your address and other info here: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/cra-login-services.html
If you have not filed your taxes in recent years, you may miss out on these benefits. Please reach out to our office if you need assistance.
Canada-U.S. Border Closure Announcement
It has been announced that the Canada-U.S. border will be closing to all non-essential travel. What this means:
- If you are a Canadian resident returning home - you will still be able to cross the border.
- Trade will also continue, and commercial vehicles will be able to cross the border.
Recent Provincial Announcements
On March 19, the Ontario Legislature returned to pass two pieces of emergency Legislation:
- The Municipal Emergency Act permits overnight delivery to grocery stores and pharmacies, and allows municipal councils to meet virtually.
- Changes to the Employment Standards Act to allow for protected leave for employees who are in isolation, quarantine or to care for family due to COVID-19. The changes also eliminate the requirement for sick notes to be presented to employers.
The Ontario NDP supported these pieces of legislation, but we also feel they do not go far enough. New Democrats are calling for concrete plans for hospitals, for public services, for families and workers, for businesses, and for vulnerable people and the organizations that serve them. We also would like to see those plans widely and effectively communicated.
Eviction moratorium: The Ministry of the Attorney General has been granted an order suspending the enforcement of residential evictions until ordered otherwise by the court. Tribunals Ontario will not issue any new eviction orders until further notice.
OSAP payment deferral: A six-month deferral on OSAP payments has been announced.
- Government documents extended: The validity period for drivers’ licenses, health cards, licence plates, Ontario Photo Cards, and Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration certificates and other products has been extended.
- Electricity disconnections banned. Effective immediately, the Ontario Energy Board is extending the current ban on electricity disconnections for non-payment for all residential customers to July 31, 2020. Low-volume, small business customers will now also be protected by the ban. In addition, the OEB is calling on distributors to be more flexible on arrears payment arrangements. Please visit http://www.oeb.ca/industry for more information.
Learning supports while schools are closed:
Several learning tools have been launched to support students and parents seeking learning opportunities through the next few weeks, including through TVO. And a second phase will be launched should schools remain closed. Standardized tests have been cancelled, including the literacy test requirement for Gr 12 graduation.
- Schools remain closed until April 5. No decision has yet been made about closure of schools beyond the next two weeks. The government has indicated they will act on the recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.