How to Apply for Financial Assistance During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A librarian helps you navigate the financial aid system including what forms of financial assistance are available to you during the COVID-19 pandemic and how and when to apply for them.
Posted on 23 March 2020 by Anonymous MHPL Librarian.

As I’m sure we all know by now, the past week has been unprecedented. Our library has closed its doors to the public, for an indefinite period, for the first time in our history.

The timeline for the COVID-19 outbreak could be longer than officials originally assumed. The province has said that the drastic measures we are currently experiencing could be in place until the end of May.

We know that the economic disruptions that this pandemic has caused is as stressful as the virus itself. That’s why I’ve been asked to provide regular updates for the financial assistance our provincial and federal government are offering to get us through this crisis. 

While we are so fortunate that our workplace is looking out for us, we also know that spouses, family, and friends are going through reduced hours and layoffs. There are a number of financial supports on their way to help Canadians and businesses cope with closures over the coming month. My sincere hope is that this post will help some of our community members to feel just a bit less stressed and overwhelmed by all that is going on right now. 


Unpaid Job Protected Leave

  • Changes to the Employment Standards Code will allow full and part time employees to take job-protected leave if:
    • They are required to self-isolate.
    • Caring for a child or dependent adult that needs to self-isolate.
  • To be eligible,employees:
    • Aren’t required to have a medical note
    • Do not need to have worked for the employer for 90 days
  • This leave may be extended if the Chief Medical Officer changes.
  • This means you can’t be let go/fired for not coming into work because of illness related quarantine.

More details here: https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-support-for-employers.aspx


EI Sickness Benefit

  • Allows up to 15 weeks of financial assistance if a person can’t work due to medical reasons like isolation or self-quarantine, and aren’t being paid by their regular employer during the time they are off of work.
  • The one-week waiting period for Employment Benefits has been waived by the federal government. You need to call 1-833-381-2725 to get this waived.
  • Do you qualify? You need to demonstrate that:
    • You’re unable to work for medical reasons
    • Your regular earnings have decreased by 40% for more than one week
    • You accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the 52 weeks before the start of your claim or since the start of your last claim.
  • You could receive up to 55% of your insurable earnings to a maximum of $573/week. 
  • You can be eligible to receive a family supplement if:
    • Your net family income is under $25,291
    • You have at least one child under the age of 18.
    • You or your spouse receive the Child Care Benefit

You can find more information, contact information, and apply online at this website: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness/apply.html.


Emergency Isolation Support

  • This is a temporary program for working adult Albertans who must self-isolate for 14 days because they meet the Government of Alberta’s criteria for self-isolation. It includes people who are caregivers for a dependent who must self-isolate and will not have another source of income while they are in isolation.
  • It will be given in one payment and is meant to bridge the gap until the Federal payments start in April.
  • They expect the program application to be online through Alberta.ca next week, and that the funds will be deposited in the accounts of the recipients at that time.
  • As of March 18, 2020, Premier Kenney said the payment will be $573.

Learn more here: https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-supports-for-albertans.aspx#toc-1.


What if I don’t qualify for EI Sickness Benefit?

  • There is an emergency care benefit that is on the way from the federal government. As of March 19, it is not finalized yet but more information will be announced next week. This delay is why Alberta came out with the Emergency Isolation Support listed above.
  • It will provide up to $900 every two weeks, for a maximum of 15 weeks, to help Canadian workers who do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
  • Includes those who are sick themselves, those who are staying home to look after others that are sick, or looking after children who are not in school.
  • There is also an emergency support benefit that is on the way that will offer undisclosed amounts to unemployed workers who are not eligible for EI.
  • Applications for these will OPEN IN APRIL.
    • Canadians will be able to apply for them through:
    • CRA MyAccount
    • My Service Canada Account
    • Or calling a toll-free number that hasn’t been made available yet.

More details here: https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/heres-how-to-apply-for-government-help-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic


I’ve been laid off because my workplace closed! What do I do?

If you were laid off through no fault of your own, here's how to apply for EI to get you through until businesses return to normal operations. 

  • Start your application at Canada.ca
  • Apply as soon as you are laid off.
  • You need a Record of Employment (ROE) for any jobs you’ve had over the past 52 weeks. Here’s more information on it.
    • Almost all employers will file these electronically, automatically.
    • If you get a layoff notice, you can start your application. As soon as your employer submits your ROE, they will know your application is complete and can start the approval process.
    • If you’ve had a few jobs over the past 52 weeks, and don’t have an ROE for them, you need to contact them and ask. They are legally obligated to provide you with one.
  • You qualify based on the eligible hours you’ve worked over the past 52 weeks.
    • You will need between 420 and 700 hours of eligible employment, at minimum.
    • EI will pay out 55% of your insurable earnings per week.
  • The maximum amount of EI paid out per week is $573.
  • You need to be completely laid off/terminated to get EI. You cannot be employed without shifts or pay. This is why so many employers are completely laying off their employees.
  • The exception to this is a temporary layoff. This is when you are laid off by your company for a maximum of 60 days, but they are still paying your benefits.

Full details here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-regular-benefit.html.


Mortgage Deferral

  • Canada’s six big banks, as well as ATB Financial and Alberta Credit Unions, will allow mortgage payment deferrals for six months to help struggling customers.
  • You need to apply for this, so contact your individual banks for more details.
  • As of March 23, 2020, it is unclear if your mortgage payment will be paused interest free. 
  • What this means: when you pay your mortgage, part of this payment is the principal (amount you borrowed and have to pay back) and part of this is the interest (what the lender charges for lending you the money). Since the interest keeps accumulating while the payment is paused, you may wind up paying for your home for a few extra months at the end of your amortization period.

More information here: https://globalnews.ca/news/6694459/coronavirus-canada-big-banks-mortgage-payment-deferrals/.


Utility Payment Holiday

  • On March 18, utility deferral measures were announced. Gas and electric can be deferred for 90 days without being cut off. Municipalities are responsible with negotiating about water. 
  • As of March 23, the city of Medicine Hat is offering utility bill deferral for up to 90 days. 
    • You need to call 403-529-8113 and speak to somebody if you want to defer your bill. (If you live in the city of Medicine Hat)
    • If you don’t request a deferral, you will still be charged/have your bill automatically withdrawn like normal.
    • Disconnection warning letters and the $20 service fee will be waived for 90 days.
    • See the City of Medicine Hat’s website for full information about this program.
  • A payment deferral means that you will still have to pay for your utilities eventually. It’s currently unclear how the government will go about this - but most are assuming they will add a bit of extra money onto your bill each month until the balance is paid off. 

Visit the Medicine Hat Utility Billing website here: https://www.medicinehat.ca/government/departments/finance/customer-service/utility-billing.


Student Loan Repayment Deferral

  • Alberta student loan repayments will be paused for 6 months starting on March 30, 2020. This means that if you have a payment that automatically withdraws from your account before March 30 this month, it will still come out, so plan accordingly.
  • Interest will not accrue on what you owe during this period!
  • Students do not need to apply for this pause - it will happen automatically.
  • If you would like to continue to make payments during this time, you can. If you need to pause the payments in a few months (depending on what the economy looks like) you still can do so.
  • The same applies with Federal Student Loans. 

More details here: https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-supports-for-albertans.aspx#toc-3.


Deferred Tax Filing Date

  • The Canada Revenue Agency will defer it’s filing due date for 2019 for individuals and certain trusts.
  • For individuals, the filing date has been pushed back to June 1. (The original was April 30)
  • The government will allow people to defer their income tax payments until after August 31 and before September 2020, with no interest or penalties.

More details here: https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/the-tax-deadline-has-been-extended-due-to-the-covid-19-crisis-1.4858098.


Where should I look for regular updates?

The Government of Alberta website should be your trusted source. We will do our best to gather and disseminate information on the crisis when we think it is relevant and beneficial to our community. Stay safe and remember to always be kind. 

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