Canadian and U.S. Government Programs: COVID-19 Guide

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By: bbtv

April 20, 2020

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Canadian and U.S. Government Programs: COVID-19 Guide

Businesses, communities and families across the globe have been severely impacted by COVID-19, and governments are doing what they can to support people during these uncertain times. We hope you find the information below useful in navigating resources available to Canadians and Americans, as well as residents of British Columbia and the states of New York, California, and Illinois.

The information presented below is a summary only and should not be construed as a full description of the listed Government initiatives and programs (some of which are only proposed at this stage).All programs are subject to change from time to time, at the Governments’ discretion. Please review the information at the provided links to learn more about each initiative and program, their respective eligibility requirements, and whether or not they may be applicable to you and your family.

Canada – Federal Programs

CANADA EMERGENCY RESPONSE BENEFIT (CERB)

If you have stopped working because of COVID-19, you may apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), whether or not you are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). This benefit provides $500 per week for up to 16 weeks. 

If you applied for EI regular or sickness benefits on March 15, 2020 or later, your claim will be automatically processed through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. 

On April 15th, the federal government announced plans to make the CERB available to workers who continue to earn income as long as monthly income does not surpass $1,000. The CERB will also be made available to workers who have exhausted their Employment Insurance (EI) benefits since January 1. Details on this expansion to the CERB are still pending. 

How to Apply: 

Click here to begin your application for the CERB.

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE (EI) SICKNESS BENEFITS 

If you cannot work for medical reasons, EI sickness benefits can provide you with 55% of your earnings up to a maximum of $573 a week for up to 15 weeks. 

If you have stopped working due to COVID-19, you can apply for the above Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The CERB application portal link provided above will ask you a few questions to guide you towards the best application for your situation. If you apply for EI, claims will automatically be processed through the CERB. 

If you are sick, quarantined, or have been directed to self-isolate due to COVID-19 and are applying for EI, the federal government will waive the following requirements of the EI sickness benefit:

  • The requirement to provide a medical certificate
  • The one-week waiting period

Apply as soon as possible after you stop working. If you wait more than 4 weeks after your last day of work to apply, you may lose benefits. 

How to Apply:

Click here for Service Canada’s step-by-step guide on applying for EI Sickness Benefits

CANADA CHILD BENEFIT (CCB)

The federal government is providing an extra $300 per child through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for 2019-20. This will mean approximately $550 more for the average family.

The CCB is available to eligible residents of Canada who live with and are primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of a child under 18 years of age. 

This benefit will be delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment in May.

How to Apply: 

Those who already receive the Canada Child Benefit do not need to re-apply.

There are 3 ways to apply: 

  1. Birth Registration: Through birth registration when you registered the birth of your newborn
  2. Online: Through your personal CRA account, My Account
  3. Mail: Fill out and sign Form RC66 Canada Child Benefits Application and mail it, with any additional documents needed (depending on your situation), to your tax center

Click here for detailed instructions on how to apply and to find your tax center.

GOODS AND SERVICES TAX CREDIT (GSTC)

The federal government is providing a one-time special payment starting on April 9, 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC). 

The average additional benefit will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples.

How to Apply:

There is no need to apply for this payment. Your eligibility will depend on your tax return and if you are eligible, you will receive it automatically. 

CANADA STUDENT LOANS

If you have a Canada Student Loan, federal student loan repayments will be suspended until September 30th, 2020. Interest will not be charged to borrowers on their student loans from March 30th, 2020 to September 30th, 2020.

How to Apply: 

If you are registered for pre-authorized debit payments, they will be automatically stopped so you do not have to do anything.

If you are making payments by cheque or other means, you are not required to make payments during the suspension period.

If you want to continue making payments on your loan, you may do so by logging in to your secure NSLSC account and use the Make a Payment option or through online banking.

Click here to register for and access your online National Student Loans Service Centre account

DEFERRAL OF INCOME TAX FILING AND PAYMENT DEADLINES

The federal government has deferred the tax return filing due date for individuals until June 1, 2020. 

Taxpayers are also allowed to defer payment of any income tax amounts owing for 2019 until September 1, 2020 with no interest or penalties. 

MORTGAGE DEFERRALS

The federal government has asked lenders to provide flexibility to borrowers experiencing financial difficulty. If you are experiencing financial hardship and having difficulty paying your mortgage, please contact your financial institution to discuss flexibility for a mortgage deferral. 

COVID-19 EMERGENCY LOAN PROGRAM FOR CANADIANS ABROAD

The federal government is allowing Canadians and, in exceptional circumstances, Canadian permanent residents, who are outside Canada and who have no available source of funds to return home to apply for an emergency repayable loan. The loan is to facilitate their return to Canada and to cover basic essential needs while they work towards their return. Each application will be assessed according to their specific situation and needs. 

How to Apply: 

Canadians currently outside Canada who need financial assistance can contact:

IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES, CITIZENSHIP, AND PASSPORT SERVICES

The federal government has compiled this page containing information for immigration applicants. 

Canada – BC Provincial Programs

BC EMERGENCY BENEFIT FOR WORKERS

The B.C. emergency benefit for workers will provide a one-time, tax-free, $1,000 payment for B.C. residents who are unable to work due to COVID-19. 

BC residents who receive federal Employment Insurance, or the new federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) are eligible. 

How to Apply:

Applications and more details are expected to be provided soon.

Click here to subscribe for notifications about eligibility requirements and how to apply for this benefit.

BC UNPAID JOB-PROTECTED LEAVE

If, due to COVID-19, you are ill, need to self-isolate, need to care for your child or other dependent, or if there is concern you may expose others to risk, you are able to take unpaid, job protected leave for as long as the circumstance requires you to be away from work. 

How to Apply:

There is no application for this leave. You will need to communicate with your employer if you need to take this leave. 

BC CLIMATE ACTION TAX CREDIT

There will be a one-time enhancement to the climate action tax credit paid to moderate- to low-income families in July 2020. 

An adult will receive up to $218 (increased from $43.50). A child will receive $64.00 (increased from $12.75)

How to Apply:

You will need to file your 2019 tax return and the CRA will determine your eligibility for this payment. 

BC TEMPORARY RENTAL SUPPLEMENT (BC-TRS) 

This new program will provide a temporary rental supplement of up to $500 per month for the months of April, May, and June to assist eligible low- and moderate-income renters who are struggling to pay their rent as a result of income loss or income reduction due to COVID-19. 

Eligible tenants will have the benefit paid directly to their landlord, benefiting both the landlord and the tenant. At this time, this is a three-month program.

How to Apply:

Click here for more details on eligibility and how to apply. 

EVICTIONS AND RENT INCREASES

During BC’s state of emergency, landlords may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason. New annual rent increases are also frozen. 

Tenants are still required to pay rent in full and on time and tenants who have not paid rent can face eviction once BC’s state of emergency is over.

BC STUDENT LOANS 

Effective March 30, 2020, all BC student loan borrowers will temporarily have their repayments suspended until September 30, 2020.

Repayment will be paused automatically, so borrowers do not need to apply to have their repayment suspended.

EMERGENCY FUNDING FOR POST-SECONDARY STUDENTS 

The BC government has provided emergency funding to its public post-secondary schools and to the Indigenous Emergency Assistance Fund. This funding will support domestic and Indigenous B.C. students who are experiencing an unexpected financial emergency that may affect their ability to finish their studies and handle expenses. This non-repayable emergency assistance can be used to help with a broad range of costs, including living expenses, food, and other supports for students.

How to Apply: 

Students attending BC’s public post-secondary institutions can contact their school’s financial aid office to begin the application process. 

Indigenous students attending BC’s public post-secondary institutions and Native Education College (NEC) can contact the Indigenous Student Service Centre on their campus to begin the application process. 

DISABILITY AND INCOME ASSISTANCE SUPPLEMENT

People who are receiving Income Assistance, Disability Assistance, and Comforts Allowance and who are not receiving federal Employment Insurance (EI) or Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will automatically receive a $300 supplement on cheques issued in April, May, and June. 

There is no need to apply for this payment. Those eligible will have the supplement automatically added to their assistance cheques. 

ICBC PAYMENT DEFERRAL

ICBC customers on a monthly payment plan who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19 may defer their payment for up to 90 days with no penalty. 

How to Apply:

Apply for a deferral on ICBC’s online resource tool

You will need to apply for a deferral by 6pm at least one business day before your next payment is due. 

BC HYDRO PAYMENT DEFERRAL AND SUSPENSION OF DISCONNECTIONS

BC Hydro is stopping disconnections for non-payments due to COVID-19. Customers can defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty through the COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program.

How to Apply:

Call BC Hydro’s customer team at: 1-800-BCHYDRO (1-800-224-9376)

BC HYDRO CUSTOMER CRISIS FUND (CCF)

BC Hyrdo’s Customer Crisis Fund (CCF) provides grants for residential customers who are facing disconnection of their BC Hydro service. You can apply for a grant towards an overdue balance and the amount of the grant will vary depending on your amount owing. 

Maximum grants available are $600 for customers who heat their homes with electricity, and $500 for customers with non-electrically heated homes (e.g. natural gas heat).

How to Apply: 

The fastest way to have your application reviewed is to apply online. 

If you need help filling out the online application form, you can get assistance over the phone from BC211 by calling 1 844 708 3208.

BC HYDRO COVID-19 RELIEF FUND

If you or your spouse/partner have lost employment or have become unable to work due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for three months of bill credit based on your average consumption.

How to Apply:

Click here to apply online.  

TRANSLINK BUS FARE SUSPENSION

Translink is suspending fare collection on its bus system. Customers are also asked to board buses using the rear doors where possible to promote physical distancing. Regular fares still apply on other Translink systems. 

USA – Federal Programs

CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF, AND ECONOMIC SECURITY ACT (“CARES” ACT) – ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS

Economic impact payments will be made to eligible taxpayers, based on their earnings, in amounts of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each qualifying child. The IRS will use the information on your tax return to calculate the amount for which you are eligible. 

How to Apply:

Payments will be distributed automatically with no action required for most people.  Taxpayers who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return. 

The IRS will use the information in your tax return to calculate your benefit amount. If you’ve filed your 2019 tax return, the IRS will use the information from your 2019 tax return. If you haven’t submitted your 2019 tax return, the IRS will use data from 2018 filings. 

CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF, AND ECONOMIC SECURITY ACT (“CARES” ACT) – INCREASED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

If you are unable to work due to COVID-19, the Act expands on unemployment benefits administered by states by providing:

  • An additional $600 per week for up to 4 months
  • An additional 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits beyond unemployment provided by the state

This benefit includes those traditionally ineligible for unemployment benefits (e.g., those with limited work history) but does not include individuals who have the ability to telework with pay or individuals who are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits. 

How to Apply:

The federal government is working with individual states to incorporate the new benefits into state unemployment insurance programs. 

FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (“FFCRA” ACT) – EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE AND EMERGENCY FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

The Act requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide to all employees:

  • 2 weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work or telework because the employee is quarantined and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • 2 weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at ⅔ the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work or telework in order to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or care for a child under 18 years of age whose school or child care provider is closed due to COVID-19

Emergency Family and Medical Leave

For employees that have been employed with the employer for at least 30 days, the Act expands on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at ⅔ the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $200/day and $10,000 total, where an employee is unable to work or telework in order to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed due to COVID-19.

The first 10 days of this leave is unpaid but the employee can utilize the Emergency Paid Sick Leave provisions (above) if they apply. 

CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF, AND ECONOMIC SECURITY ACT (“CARES” ACT) – MANDATED COVID-19 COVERAGE FOR EMPLOYER-SPONSORED GROUP HEALTH PLANS

Group health plans of any size and health insurers are required to cover COVID-19 tests and related services without cost sharing or prior authorization requirements.

CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF, AND ECONOMIC SECURITY ACT (“CARES” ACT) – MORTGAGE RELIEF

If your mortgage is a federally-backed mortgage and you experience financial hardship due to COVID-19, There are two relief options:

  1. Your lender may not foreclose on you for 60 days after March 18, 2020
  2. You can request a forbearance for up to 180 days. You also have the right to request one extension for another up to 180 days. You must contact your loan servicer to request this forbearance. There will be no additional fees, penalties or additional interest (beyond scheduled amounts) added to your account. You do not need to submit additional documentation to qualify other than your claim to have a pandemic-related financial hardship.

If your mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac:

  • In addition to the foreclosure moratorium and forbearance, if you are granted forbearance to delay making your monthly payments during this temporary period:
  • You won’t incur late fees
  • You won’t have delinquencies reported to credit reporting companies
  • Foreclosure and other legal proceedings will be suspended

If you have a mortgage that is not federally backed or backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac:

  • Borrowers should contact their banks directly to discuss their situations. This list compiles publicly announced steps banks have taken to respond to COVID-19. 

DEFERRAL OF IRS FILING DEADLINE AND FEDERAL TAX PAYMENTS

The federal income tax filing due date has been extended from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. 

Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020, without penalties or interest. 

Taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868

FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS

Federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payment.  This suspension of payments will last until Sept 30, 2020, but you can still make payments if you choose. 

USA – New York State Programs

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE (UI) WAITING PERIOD WAIVED

Unemployment insurance is temporary income for eligible workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. New York State is waiving the 7-day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits for people who are out of work due to COVID-19 closures or quarantines. 

How to Apply:

If you are filing a new UI claim, the day you should apply is based on the first letter of your last name:

  • A – F file on Monday
  • G – N file on Tuesday
  • O – Z file on Wednesday
  • Missed your day? File on Thu-Fri-Sat

You can file your UI claim:

  • Online (recommended), or 
  • Phone Service 1-888-209-8124

IF YOU ARE QUARANTINED – PAID FAMILY LEAVE / DISABILITY 

If you are under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any government entity duly authorized to issue such an order due to COVID-19, there are a few options available to you. 

This benefit is not available to you if you are able to work through remote access or other means.

  1. It starts with using paid sick leave. Refer to the Federal paid sick leave benefits above. 
  2. After that, you can apply for a combination of New York State (NYS) Paid Family Leave (PFL) and disability benefits.
  • If you are eligible, NYS PFL is insurance coverage that provides up to 60% of your pay, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $840.70.
  • After receiving your full PFL benefit, you can apply for disability benefits to match your full wages up to a maximum weekly disability benefit of $2,043.92, for a total of $2,884.62 per week.
  • There is no waiting period for either benefit.

How to Apply:

Click here for detailed instructions on how to apply for Paid Family Leave and/or disability benefits when you are under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation. 

IF YOUR MINOR DEPENDENT CHILD IS QUARANTINED – PAID FAMILY LEAVE

If you are an eligible employee whose dependent child is under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation, you may be able to take Paid Family Leave for the duration of the quarantine/isolation. 

In 2020, the Paid Family Leave wage benefit is 60% of your average weekly wage (AWW), up to a maximum weekly benefit of $840.70. Your AWW is the average of your pay for the last eight weeks in which you worked and received wages prior to starting Paid Family Leave.

How to Apply:

Click here for detailed instructions on how to apply for Paid Family Leave and/or disability benefits when you are under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation. 

PAID FAMILY CARE

You may be eligible for up to 10 weeks of Paid Family Care to care for a close family member with a serious health condition, including family members outside of New York State.

How to Apply:

Click here for detailed instructions on how to apply for Paid Family Care. 

RENT SUPPORT – EVICTIONS SUSPENDED AND CASH ASSISTANCE

As of March 16th, all eviction proceedings in New York City are suspended indefinitely. Anyone with knowledge of City Marshals attempting to execute on warrants of eviction can report this activity by calling DOI’s Bureau of City Marshals at 212-825-5953.

You will still need to pay rent and if your work schedule was reduced as a result of COVID-19 and you are unable to pay rent, you can apply for a Cash Assistance special request grant. 

How to Apply:

Click here to create an account or login to your ACCESS HRA account to apply for Cash Assistance. 

UTILITY CONSUMER PROTECTIONS

Governor Cuomo has issued a directive for utilities providers to suspend utilities disconnections. Specific benefits and protections will depend on the individual utilities providers and consumers will need to contact their utilities provider(s) to discuss the options available. 

NEW YORK STATE INCOME TAX FILING AND PAYMENT DEADLINE DELAYED

New York State personal income tax returns originally due on April 15, 2020, have been extended to July 15, 2020. 

In addition, all related tax payments due on April 15, 2020, may be deferred to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed.

PRO-BONO LEGAL NETWORK

The New York State Bar Association, in partnership with the New York State Court System, have created a network of volunteer lawyers to assist people in need of free legal assistance related to COVID-19 (e.g., applying for unemployment insurance) 

USA – California State Programs

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE (UI) WAITING PERIOD WAIVED

Unemployment insurance (UI) provides partial wage replacement benefits to workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced, through no fault of their own. If your child’s school is closed due to COVID-19 and you have to miss work to be there for them, you may be eligible for UI benefits. Eligibility considerations include if you have no other care options and if you are unable to continue working your normal hours remotely. 

The Governor’s Executive Order waives the one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can collect UI benefits for the first week you are out of work. 

How to Apply:

Click here for detailed information on how to file an UI claim.

DISABILITY INSURANCE IF YOU ARE SICK OR QUARANTINED

If you’re unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional), you can file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim. 

DI provides short-term benefit payments to eligible workers. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50 – $1,300 a week. 

Telehealth and virtual appointments are acceptable for a physical examination, but medical certifications are still required. 

The Governor’s Executive Order waives the one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can collect DI benefits for the first week you are out of work. 

How to Apply:

Click here for detailed instructions on how to file a Disability Insurance claim. 

PAID FAMILY LEAVE IF YOU ARE CARING FOR A FAMILY MEMBER

If you’re unable to work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional), you can file a Paid Family Leave claim. 

Paid Family Leave provides up to six weeks of benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50-$1,300 a week. 

Telehealth and virtual appointments are acceptable for a physical examination, but medical certifications are still required.

How to Apply:

Click here for detailed instructions on how to file a Paid Family Leave claim.

RENT SUPPORT – EVICTIONS SUSPENDED 

Eviction orders for renters affected by COVID-19 are banned through to May 31, 2020. 

Tenants would need to declare in writing, no more than seven days after the rent comes due, that the tenant cannot pay all or part of their rent due to COVID-19. Tenants would be required to retain documentation but not required to submit it to the landlord in advance. 

Tenants are still obligated to pay rent and can still face eviction once the moratorium is lifted. 

UTILITY CONSUMER PROTECTIONS

California has enacted consumer protection measures for publicly-owned utilities, including suspending disconnections and offering flexible payment plans. Specific benefits and protections will depend on individual utilities providers and consumers will need to contact their utilities provider(s) to discuss options available. 

The State of California has compiled a list of consumer protection provisions here. 

CALIFORNIA INCOME TAX FILING AND PAYMENT DEADLINE DELAYED

Due dates for tax filing and payments have been postponed until July 15, 2020. 

USA – Illinois State Programs

UNEMPLOYMENT (UI) INSURANCE

If you are unable to work due to COVID-19, including having to leave work to address child care needs, you may qualify for UI if you meet all other eligibility requirements, including the requirements that you be able and available for work, registered with the state employment service and actively seeking work from the confines of your home. 

You would be considered able and available for work if there was some work that you could perform from home (e.g., transcribing, data entry, virtual assistant services) and there is a labor market for that work.

The 7-day waiting period to apply for unemployment insurance has been waived. 

How to Apply:

Click here for detailed instructions on how to apply for UI. 

RENT SUPPORT – EVICTIONS PAUSED

Governor Pritzker issued an Executive Order on March 20, 2020 pausing all evictions from homes and rental units. 

UTILITY CONSUMER PROTECTIONS

Illinois’ utilities regulator, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), has issued a request for utilities providers to suspend service disconnections, waive late payment fees, and implement flexible payment options. Consumers will need to contact their utilities provider(s) to discuss the specific options available. 

ILLINOIS INCOME TAX FILING AND PAYMENT DEADLINE DELAYED

The 2019 income tax filing and payment deadlines for all taxpayers who file and pay their Illinois income taxes on April 15, 2020, are automatically extended until July 15, 2020.

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