Answers to common money and debt questions arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
“This pandemic has made everything come to a stop. Except for my bills of course. And money is tight now. With groceries, cleaning supplies, rent, and so many other pressures, it’s hard for me to prioritize what to pay first."
– Morgan, Vancouver
I’ve heard it’s possible to defer some bills?
Between March and June, BC Hydro offered a COVID-19 relief fund for customers unable to work due to the pandemic. That program has closed, but Hydro continues to offer other payment options. You can ask to defer payments or access grants to help pay your hydro bills.
Fortis BC is offering flexible payment options and waiving late payment fees for gas and electricity bills. And they won’t cut off anyone during the crisis.
ICBC customers can ask to defer monthly payments for up to 90 days with no penalty.
I may have to withdraw money on my credit card. What do I need to know?
Borrowing money from your credit card comes with fees and steep interest rates, upwards of 20% per year. Consider borrowing money from a friend or relative, or from a credit union or bank that offers lower interest rates. One option to consider is opening up a line of credit. We have resources on borrowing money and dealing with debt that might help as you consider your options.
What about supports for students, and what about student loans?
The federal government has introduced an emergency student benefit. It provides between $1,250 and $2,000 every four weeks to those post-secondary students and recent graduates who can’t find work or are making less than $1,000 per month due to coronavirus. The benefit is available from May to August 2020. Students can also be eligible for benefits if they volunteer.
The federal government has also placed a six-month interest-free freeze on all Canada student loans, effective March 30. No payment will be required and interest won’t add up during this time. Students don’t need to apply for the repayment pause. The province similarly froze all BC student loan payments for six months, also effective March 30.
The government is also raising maximum amounts for student grants and loans.
As well, post-secondary students can access non-repayable emergency funds for living expenses. You can also access laptops to help you study remotely. Contact your school’s financial aid office to apply and find out how much money you can qualify for.
Is there relief to help low-income people?
Emergency measures are in place to help people on income or disability assistance and low-income seniors. Those on provincial assistance programs and not receiving employment insurance (EI) or the new Canada emergency response benefit are getting extra money from the province. They automatically receive a $300 supplement on their assistance cheques between April and August.
As well, during the pandemic, the province will stop deducting employment insurance benefits from welfare payments.
Also, a one-time enhancement to the climate action tax credit will be paid in July 2020 for moderate to low-income families. An adult will receive up to $218, and a child up to $64. (This is five times more than the three other payments in 2020 under this tax credit.)
What are the deadlines for income tax during this time?
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government adjusted the income tax deadlines for taxpayers. They extended the due date for filing 2019 tax returns to June 1, 2020. And you have until September 1, 2020 to pay any 2019 income tax amounts owed.