Dan Albas

COLUMN: Financial help during the COVID-19 pandemic

Canada’s government is taking steps to help Canadians as they cope with the effects of the pandemic

When I first wrote on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) three weeks ago there were 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada with 20 in Ontario, 12 in British Columbia and one in Quebec.

Last week those numbers had increased to 93 confirmed cases in Canada, with 36 in Ontario, 39 in British Columbia, four in Quebec and 14 in Alberta.

One death as a result of the disease had also been recorded in B.C.

This week the numbers are as follows: 701 confirmed cases in Canada with 212 in Ontario, 231 in B.C., 97 in Alberta, 94 in Quebec, 12 in Manitoba and the rest in other parts of Canada.

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There have now been seven COVID-19 deaths in B.C.

One of the health challenges is, for a variety of different reasons, the tests for the virus are all at maximum capacity.

This means that as more capacity is added to increase the tests, numbers may continue to rise substantially.

At the same time, the province of B.C. has declared a state of emergency with the City of Vancouver also proposing similar measures.

The reason why a state of emergency is called is to allow authorities to have more abilities to fight the spread of the virus.

This week in Ottawa, the Prime Minister announced up to $87 billion in financial assistance to help mitigate the financial impacts that COVID-19 will inflict upon Canadians.

The measures are vast but include temporarily increasing the Canada Child Benefit and GST credits,

EI entitlements for those who would not normally qualify and a labour payroll subsidy of 10 per cent to small business owners.

Other measures include deferring the due date for individuals on personal income taxes. The return filing due date will be deferred until June 1, 2020.

In addition there will be a reduction in the required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds by 25 per cent for 2020.

The government also proposed two new benefits.

First, the Emergency Care Benefit, which will allow for people directly impacted by COVID-19 to receive up to $900 dollars every two weeks for a maximum of 15 weeks.

This is to support workers, including the self employed, that find themselves in quarantine, looking after a family member such as an elderly parent or those parents with children requiring care due to school closures and are unable to earn employment income irrespective if they qualify for EI or not.

The second is the Emergency Support Benefit and is for Canadians who lose their job or face reduced hours and are not eligible for EI.

Unfortunately we do not know more, other than they have proposed $5 billion to fund this new benefit and at this time I cannot provide constituents more details.

Both of these new benefits will be available for application only through the internet via a CRA My Account, ​My Service Canada Account or through a yet to be disclosed toll free number.

This approach may pose positives and negatives.

The Prime Minister himself has suggested Canadians should stay home wherever possible in order to reduce exposure to the virus.

But on the other hand I am already hearing frustrations that the toll-free numbers for existing programs often result with citizens unable to get through.

While online access works for many Canadians, rural areas lack online access making this option potentially unworkable for some.

Lastly, is speed and responsiveness.

These new benefits will be open for application in April and people are concerned with whether or not they will qualify or if the payments are issued quickly for those wrestling with rent, grocery and medicine bills.

This is only a partial summary of the many measures put forward.

I will give credit to the government for making efforts to have a comprehensive financial response.

My question this week is will these proposed measures help you?

I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the MP for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.

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