UPDATED MARCH 27, 2020 – COVID-19 Important Information for Constituents

March 18, 2020

Dear Constituents,

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, I endeavor to continue to provide you with accurate and up-to-date information about support from the Government of Canada.

Today, the Prime Minister announced $82B in financial aid, including $27B in direct support for families and workers and $55B in economic support for businesses in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Additionally, Canada and the United States have suspended non-essential travel between the two countries, however, restrictions are not expected to affect shipments, trade and business.

My thoughts are with every Canadian affected by COVID-19, especially the family and friends of the Canadians who have died.

Thank you as well to all public health officials and front-line health care staff working around the clock to keep us all healthy and safe.

I would also be remiss if I did not recognize the grocery store and pharmacy workers, takeout restaurants and delivery drivers who are risking their own health to help their neighbours in a time of need.

Canadians are concerned for their health and the health of their loved ones. The situation is evolving quickly and we know it can be stressful, especially for the elderly. Please continue to reach out and check on your neighbours. Together we will pull through this.

The following supports are part of the $82B stimulus announced today.

Support for workers

Provide additional assistance to families with children by temporarily boosting Canada Child Benefit payments

  • Introduce an Emergency Care Benefit of up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks to provide income support to workers who must stay home and do not have access to paid sick leave. This includes:
    • Workers, including the self-employed, who are sick, quarantined, or who have been directed to self-isolate but do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.
    • Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent or other dependents who are sick, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
    • EI-eligible and non EI-eligible working parents who must stay home without pay because of children who are sick or who need additional care because of school closures.
  • Introduce an Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the Canada Revenue Agency to provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.
    Additional assistance to individuals and families with low and modest incomes with a special top-up payment under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) credit.
  • Waive, for a minimum of six months, 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.
  • Extend the tax filing deadline for individuals to June 1, and allow all taxpayers to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today (March 18, 2020) and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as installments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. This measure will result in households having more money available during this period.
  • Provide eligible small businesses a 10 per cent wage subsidy for the next 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Employers benefiting from this measure would include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as not-for-profit organisations and charities. This will help employers keep people on their payroll and help Canadians keep their jobs.
  • Provide increased flexibility to lenders to defer mortgage payments on homeowner government-insured mortgage loans to borrowers who may be experiencing financial difficulties related to the outbreak. Insurers will permit lenders to allow payment deferral beginning immediately.

Support for Vulnerable Groups

  • Reduce minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25 per cent for 2020 in recognition of volatile market conditions and their impact on many seniors’ retirement savings.
  • Implement a six-month, interest-free, moratorium on Canada Student Loan payments for all individuals who are in the process of repaying these loans.
  • Provide $305 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund, to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities.
  • Support women and children fleeing violence by providing up to $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities. This includes funding for facilities in Indigenous communities.
  • Provide an additional $157.5 million to address the needs of Canadians experiencing homelessness through the Reaching Home program.

 

Support for Businesses

  • Allow all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as installments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. This measure will result in businesses having more money available during this period.
  • Increase the credit available to small, medium, and large Canadian businesses. As announced on March 13, a new Business Credit Availability Program will provide more than $10 billion of additional support to businesses experiencing cash flow challenges through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada.
  • Further expand Export Development Canada’s ability to provide support to domestic businesses.
  • Provide flexibility on the Canada Account limit, to allow the Government to provide additional support to Canadian businesses, when deemed to be in the national interest, to deal with exceptional circumstances.
  • Augment credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector through Farm Credit Canada.
  • Launch an Insured Mortgage Purchase Program to purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). As announced on March 16, this will provide stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders and support continued lending to Canadian businesses and consumers. CMHC stands ready to further support liquidity and the stability of the financial markets through its mortgage funding programs as necessary. The Government will enable these measures by raising CMHC’s legislative limits to guarantee securities and insure mortgages by $150 billion each.

UPDATED March 27, 2020:

Support for Small and Medium-Size Businesses

Small businesses across the country are being particularly hard hit by this crisis and need urgent support. Conservatives have been calling on the federal government to increase support for small businesses and workers, by:

  1. Significantly increasing the wage subsidy to protect workers;
  2. Refunding all GST remittances to the small businesses that collected them in at least the last six months; and
  3. Backstopping banks that extend low interest loans to small businesses.

As a result of these calls, the Prime Minister announced the following measures on March 27, 2020 to help support Small and Medium-size businesses:

  • Announce a 75 per cent wage subsidy for qualifying businesses, for up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020. This will help businesses to keep and return workers to the payroll. More details on eligibility criteria will start with the impact of COVID-19 on sales, and will be shared before the end of the month.
  • Allow businesses, including self-employed individuals, to defer all Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) payments until June, as well as customs duties owed for imports. This will help businesses so they can continue to pay their employees and their bills, and help ease cash-flow challenges across the country.
  • Launch the new Canada Emergency Business Account. This program will provide up to $25 billion to eligible financial institutions so they can provide interest-free loans to small businesses. These loans – guaranteed and funded by the Government of Canada – will ensure that small businesses have access to the capital they need, at a zero per cent interest rate, so they can pay for rent and other important costs over the next number of months.
  • Launch the new Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Loan and Guarantee program that will enable up to $40 billion in lending, supported through Export Development Canada and Business Development Bank, for guaranteed loans when small businesses go to their financial institutions to help weather the impacts of COVID-19. This is intended for small and medium-sized companies that require greater help to meet their operational cash flow requirements.

These new investments will help Canada’s financial institutions provide the credit and liquidity options that a range of Canadian businesses need immediately.

Conservatives will continue to put forward constructive solutions to keep Canadians healthy and safe and to support them during this difficult time.  Now more than ever, the government must provide answers and clear timelines so that Canadians know when they can expect to start receiving support.

In addition to this stimulus from the Government, the six largest financial institutions in Canada have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges, such as pay disruption due to COVID-19, childcare disruption due to school or daycare closures, or those suffering from COVID-19. As a first step, this support will include up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products. The Government of Canada will continue to monitor evolving economic conditions and seek greater relief measures should it be necessary.

For most of these benefits, Canadians can log-in/register at the CRA digital service counter: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-individuals/account-individuals.html

For more information on how to apply for EI sick benefits, please use the following link: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness/apply.html

 

UPDATE – March 19, 2020
Support for Albertans – From the Alberta Government 

  • Individuals who meet the requirements established by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, will be able to apply next week for Emergency Isolation Support
    • This one-time payment of $573.00 is expected to be deposited in bank accounts by the end of next week
  • Albertans will be able to defer Residential, farm, and small commercial utility bills for the next 90 days
    • No one will be cut off from their electricity or heat during this time
  • Student loan payments will have a six-month, interest-free moratorium for all individuals who are repaying them
  • ATB will be joining other major financial institutions in a number of measures for financial relief for Albertans
    • Deferral on their ATB loans, lines of credit, and mortgages for up to six months.
  • Small business customers, in addition to payment deferrals on loans and lines of credit, will be provided access to additional working capital.
  • Alberta’s Credit Unions are also taking steps to protect Albertans
    Credit Union members should proactively contact their providers to gain access to programs and solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic

UPDATE- March 24, 2020

Government of Alberta COVID-19 Self Assessment tool:

If you believe you have contracted the virus or have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 please visit this website to self-assess:
https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Journey/COVID-19/Pages/COVID-Self-Assessment.aspx

Support for Farmers

The Government of Canada has announced new measures to assist farmers affected by COVID-19. This includes:

• An additional $5B to Farm Credit Canada in lending capacity to producers, agribusinesses, and food processors.

• Eligible farmers who have outstanding Advance Payments Program loans that were due before April 30th, will now receive a “Stay of Default” which will allow an additional six months to repay their loan.

• The new deadlines are as follows:
o September 30, 2020: 2018 cash advances for grains, oilseeds, and pulses.
o September 30, 2020: 2018 cash advances for cattle and bison.
o October 31, 2020: 2019 cash advances on flowers and potted plants.

• The APP announcement also sees all commodities other than canola, now eligible for an additional $100K interest free loan for the 2020-2021 program year (making the max. interest free loan for 2020-21, $200K).

Full announcement and further details: https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2020/03/23/prime-minister-announces-support-farmers-and-agri-food-businesses

TRAVEL FAQ – Updated March 25, 2020

Many Canadians are either trying to return to Canada from abroad, or are trying to help family members or friends in doing so. This FAQ will help you navigate these trying times:

IMPORTANT: If you have previously registered your trip with the federal government and did not take your trip, or have no intention to return to Canada in the near future, please send an email to Registration of Canadians Abroad  roca@international.gc.ca to end the registration of your trip in their system.  This will allow the government to focus on the remaining registrants who may need assistance.
Canada has closed its borders to most people who are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada (see exemption below). There is an international flight ban in effect. Anyone showing symptoms (Canadian or otherwise), will not be allowed into the country. Anyone who is symptomatic during a flight will be dealt with by in-flight operations.
All Canadian-bound international flights will only be allowed into four Canadian airports – Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. This does not currently apply to USA flights, but that is subject to change.  No current flight restrictions are being placed on domestic in-Canada flights. Crews, planes, trains, and truck drivers will have access to cross-border travel under exemptions.

All travelers returning from overseas must self-isolate for 14 days to ensure they are not sick. Follow these steps if you feel sick:
a)      Take the self-assessment online (https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Journey/COVID-19/Pages/COVID-Self-Assessment.aspx)
b)      Call 811 if you have symptoms.
c)       Self-isolation instructions can be found here: https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx
d)      If you traveled recently, you can see if your flight had anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 here:  https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/covid-19-flight-information.pdf.

Should I be canceling my travel plans because of COVID-19?
a)      YES!  This includes non-essential domestic travel.
b)      On March 6th, the Government of Canada advised Canadians to ‘think twice’ about cruise ships, especially if you are elderly or have underlying health conditions.  Then, on March 9th, the Government of Canada officially advised all Canadians to avoid all cruise ships.
c)       All Canadians are being advised to return to Canada as soon as possible utilizing commercial options.  There are currently no plans for repatriation flights for those who are abroad and where commercial options remain available.  (Air Canada will suspend flights from Australia on March 28th.)
d)      Both provincial and federal health officials have issued advice to all Canadians to avoid or cancel all international travel. Many airlines have waived change fees. In short, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, health officials are asking you not to travel internationally at this time. Health officials are also requesting Canadians arriving back from international travel to self-isolate for 14 days.
e)      WestJet has suspended all international flights effective Sunday, March 22 for 30 days – https://www.westjet.com/en-ca/travel-info/coronavirus
f)       Porter Airlines has suspended all flights until June 1.
g)      Air Canada will suspend flights from Australia on March 28th.
h)      Air Transat will suspend flights on April 1st.
i)        More information here: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/latest-travel-health-advice.html
j)        https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx#toc-2

I am currently outside of Canada. Should I be returning home to Canada earlier than planned?
Yes, the Government of Canada is advising Canadians to:

a)      Find out what commercial options are still available to return to Canada. Consider returning to Canada earlier than planned as these options are becoming more limited.  There are currently no plans for repatriation flights for those who are abroad and where commercial options remain available.
b)      The US-Canada border is now closed to non-essential travel. Those returning to Canada by vehicle from the United States will be permitted to return to Canada, however, future local travel restrictions in the United States may impede your ability to actually make it back to the border.
c)       Ensure that you have sufficient finances and necessities, including medication, in case your travels are disrupted.
d)      More info: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories
e)      Many MPs are receiving messages from constituents in Peru, Spain, Portugal, and the Philippines. Please know that the Minister is aware of the large number of Canadians stranded in countries with no commercial flight options available and that these are of top priority. We have asked the Minister to provide a plan and timeline for repatriation.

Either me or my family member is outside of Canada and is affected by travel bans. What should we do?
a)      Canadians traveling outside of Canada in need of emergency consular assistance can contact Global Affairs Canada’s 24/7 Emergency
Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613 996 8885 or email sos@international.gc.ca.  Call volumes are high.
Returning Canadians
a)      All travellers returning from outside Canada must self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms.  This includes those returning to Canada by private vehicle and land crossings.
b)      More information: https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx
International Travel Exemptions
The Government of Canada is providing an update on travel restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. Exemptions to the air travel restrictions will apply to foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home, and travel by these individuals will be considered essential travel for land border restrictions. The exemptions include:
a)      Seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers
b)      international students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020
c)       permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 16, 2020, but who had not yet traveled to Canada
UPDATED – March 25, 2020 – The Emergency Response Benefit will provide support to people impacted by COVID-19
The Emergency Response Benefit will be available to Canadians who:
• Have lost their job
• Are sick with COVID-19
• Are in quarantine
• Are caring for sick children or those at home due to school closures
• Are workers still employed but not receiving income due to disruptions due to COVID-19
It will apply to:
• Wage earners
• Contract workers
• Self-employed people otherwise not eligible for EI
People already receiving EI should stay on EI and not apply for this benefit. If their EI ends before October 3, Canadians can apply for this benefit.
If this benefit runs out (after 16 weeks) and a worker is still unemployed and EI eligible, they can apply for EI.
This new Emergency Response Benefit will be available to applications in April. The government expects to have money out to people in 2-3 weeks through CRA.  It will be paid every 4 weeks.
Once this is open, anyone who could be eligible should apply to this benefit.
For more information please visit:
https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/introduces-canada-emergency-response-benefit-to-help-workers-and-businesses.html