Protecting Canadians and Their Families

Backgrounder

Through Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the Government of Canada has taken strong, immediate, and effective action to protect Canadians from the impacts of the pandemic, prevent layoffs, and provide emergency income support to families.

Supporting Individuals and Families

From the beginning of the crisis, the government recognized that an unprecedented number of Canadians were going to need income support. Unlike many other countries, Canada swiftly established emergency programs to ensure that the millions of Canadians who lost their jobs, lost hours, or lost income due to the pandemic could get help to cover their essentials.

  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides a taxable benefit of $2,000 every 4 weeks for up to 24 weeks to eligible workers who have stopped working or whose work hours have been reduced due to COVID-19. As of June 28, the CERB has provided over $53 billion in benefit payments to 8.16 million individuals.
  • The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) provides a wage subsidy of 75 per cent for qualifying employers, up to $847 per week per employee. The CEWS has supported about three million employees by helping them stay in the workforce or return to work.
  • To help families with children cope with the added pressures of COVID-19, the government delivered almost $2 billion in additional support through a special one-time $300 top-up of the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for each child. Approximately 3.7 million families benefitted from this measure.
  • Furthermore, a special top-up payment under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Credit was delivered to over 12 million low- and modest-income individuals and families, giving, on average, single adults almost $400 in additional benefits, and couples almost $600. 

A Middle-Income Family of Four

Nathan and Emily live with their two young children.

  • Nathan is a self-employed barber who makes an annual income of approximately $34,000. When the lockdown began, he was unable to provide services to any of his clients due to the closure of the barbershop where he works, leaving him with no income for the month of April.
    • Nathan was able to access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and received $2,000 a month during April and May which represents just over 70 per cent of his regular monthly income before taxes. As a result of the expanded eligibility rules announced in April, Nathan was also able to take on a small contract (less than $1,000) mid-May providing haircare tutorials online without affecting his CERB eligibility. Should he require it, Nathan will be able to access the CERB up to a maximum of 24 weeks. Nathan was also able to take advantage of the GST/HST deferral, which provided much-needed cash-flow relief during the initial months of the crisis.
  • Emily is the manager of a local restaurant and she had an annual salary of $60,000. She was furloughed when the restaurant was forced to fully close on March 15 due to COVID-19 health and safety restrictions and was able to return to work at the end of May now that certain public health restrictions in her community have been lifted.
    • Emily has been able to receive paycheques thanks to the CEWS program, receiving the maximum of $847 per week. Her salary was funded while she was furloughed and continues to be funded now that she is an active employee through the CEWS. Emily’s employer may continue to be able to access the CEWS until August 29, 2020. Her Canada Student Loan repayments were also deferred beginning March 30, until September 30, which represents savings of, on average, $160 per month.

In addition to the CERB and CEWS income support, Nathan and Emily received a $600 top-up in their CCB payment for May to help support their family’s needs. Combined, these measures provided Nathan and Emily up to $20,152* in financial support between March 15-July 4 to help them through this difficult time.

*Taxes on this amount are not reflected.

Supporting Students and Recent Graduates

Students and recent graduates are uniquely impacted by the pandemic. They are at a critical stage of life, needing income at the end of the school year to help with living expenses or to save for next semester’s tuition, but are having difficulty finding work due to COVID-19. The government has introduced a series of measures to ensure they have access to the supports they need:

  • The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) to support students and new graduates who do not qualify for the CERB or Employment Insurance, and who are unable to find employment or unable to work because of COVID-19. It provides a $1,250 base benefit amount to eligible students, and an additional $750 per month to those with dependants or a disability. To date, it has provided over $1.4 billion to over 600,000 applicants.  
  • The Canada Student Service Grant will offer up to $5,000 towards students’ fall education if they choose to volunteer in their community.
  • The Canada Student Loans Program has been enhanced with the doubling of the Canada Student Grants for all eligible full-time and part-time students, and by broadening eligibility for student financial assistance. Support for individuals with student debt burden has also been enhanced through a moratorium on Canada Student Loan re-payments and interest until September 30, 2020.
  • Existing employment, skills development and youth programming has been expanded to support jobs, research positions, volunteer opportunities, and skills development placements for students. This includes, for example, increased financial supports under the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, the Student Work Placement Program, Canada Summer Jobs, and the Canada Service Corps. 

A Low-Income Student (Post-Secondary)

Anna is a 20 year old student who recently completed her second year of full-time studies.

Last year, Anna worked full-time during the summer, earning minimum wage ($2,400 per month), in order to cover her living expenses while living away from home and to save for the upcoming school year. Due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 health emergency, Anna did not find a full-time job this summer, leaving her unable to pay for immediate expenses such as rent and food, while also putting in jeopardy her ability to continue her studies in the fall. Anna is not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) or for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), since she was not employed when the health emergency began.

  • To provide much-needed support over the summer, Anna will receive the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), which will provide her with $1,250 per month from May through August 2020.
  • While receiving the CESB and continuing to look for work, Anna decided to volunteer in a service position with a local community organization to support the broader COVID-19 response. Anna’s contribution will be recognized through the Canada Student Service Grant, which will provide up to $5,000 towards her post-secondary education costs in the fall.
  • To further ensure that Anna is financially able to return to campus in September, changes to the Canada Student Loans Program will mean Anna will receive up to $6,000 in non-repayable financial assistance, support that Anna can use to cover tuition, books and living expenses.
  • In April, Anna received a special GST Credit top-up payment of $290 to help her cover immediate expenses.
  • Anna will receive $1,250 for each month she is unable to find work, from May to August 2020, for a maximum of $5,290 in income support. She is also eligible for up to $11,000 in non-repayable grants to cover her post-secondary education costs in the fall.  

Supporting Seniors

The pandemic has been especially difficult for Canadian seniors. They are facing financial vulnerabilities as volatile markets affect their retirement savings. They may also face additional expenses due to public health measures. To support seniors, the government has introduced a range of measures:

  • A one-time tax-free payment of $300 is being provided to 6.7 million seniors who are eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension. The 2.2 million seniors who are also eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will receive an additional $200, for a total of $500.
  • The required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) were reduced for 2020, providing additional flexibility for seniors’ retirement savings in light of volatile market conditions.
  • An expanded New Horizons for Seniors Program is supporting organizations that offer community-based projects that reduce isolation, improve the quality of life of seniors, and help them maintain a social support network.
  • Additionally, more than 4 million seniors benefitted from the one-time special top-up payment through the GST Credit. Eligible seniors received an average of $375 if they were single and $510 for couples.

A Single Low-Income Senior

Laurence is a 70 year old single senior. She receives a CPP retirement pension as well as income from a workplace pension, besides OAS and GIS benefits as well as the GST Credit. 

  • In April, Laurence received $443 from the special GST Credit top-up payment, the maximum amount for a single adult with no dependent children.
  • Laurence is taking precautions to avoid exposure to the virus and is isolating. She was able to join phone-based get-togethers with friends thanks to the efforts of a local seniors support group. Another community group has arranged to deliver her groceries a couple of times. The government has provided a $9 million contribution to the United Way, and is providing additional new funding of $20 million to the New Horizons for Seniors Program this year, to further support such activities.
  • In the week of July 6, Laurence will be receiving $500 from the one-time payment for seniors eligible for OAS and GIS ($300 in respect of OAS and another $200 in respect of GIS). 

Taken together, the special GST Credit top-up payment and the one-time payment for seniors eligible for OAS and GIS will provide Laurence $943 in financial support.

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