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COVID-19 Updates & Resources

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COVID-19 SUMMARY | SUPPORTS FOR PEOPLE & BUSINESSES

The summary of supports that are available to people and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis is assembled for your convenience only and offer links to official information wherever possible.

Items listed in RED indicate new/updated since May 18.  (Last Update: May 21, 2020)

HOUSING
BC Hydro BC Hydro is halting all service disconnections for non-payment of bills and reducing electricity rates by 1%.
COVID-19 Relief Fund applies a 3-month credit to your BC Hydro account for eligible customers (avg credit will be $477). Applications will be accepted until June 30 (no rush to apply). Apply online.
COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program offers bill deferral and payment plans for customers struggling due to impacts of COVID-19. Customer Assistance: Call 1-800-BC-HYDRO
Customer Crisis Fund is an existing program that grants of up to $600 off your energy bill. Apply online.
Renters & Landlords Evictions ban in effect for duration of crisis. No action required. Click here for more info.
Freeze on rental rates means that no rent increases are allowed in BC, effective April 1. No action required. Click here for more info.
BC Temporary Rental Supplement (BC-TRS) provides up to $500/month towards rent, paid directly to landlords, for eligible renters. Apply online.
 Homeowners Mortgage payment deferrals available for CMHC-insured loans. Check with your lender.
Check with your lender about payment deferral options for loans that are not CMHC-insured. Check with your lender.
Strata councils may meet virtually during COVID-19. More info.
Emergency Housing Existing shelters still active and additional emergency options may be available. New spaces have been secured for those experiencing homelessness or without a safe place to self-isolate (including people fleeing domestic and sexual violence) in hotels and other sites. Contact your local shelter or transition home for placement support. Call 2-1-1 or search online.
INCOME & PERSONAL SUPPORTS FOR PEOPLE
Workers Unlimited, unpaid job-protected leave for workers who are unable to work for reasons relating to COVID-19, retroactive to Jan 27, 2020. As a permanent change, workers now also have three days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for people who cannot work due to illness or injury.
Employment Insurance (EI): If you have stopped working because of COVID-19, you should apply for CERB whether or not you are eligible for Employment Insurance. Apply online via CERB.
EI Sickness Benefit: One-week waiting period has been waived. Apply online via CERB.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides $2000/month to workers impacted due to COVID-19, including contractors and self-employed people. *Important: CERB eligibility has been expanded to include seasonal workers, those whose EI benefits have recently expired, and workers making less than $1000/month. Apply online.
BC Emergency Benefit for Workers provides a one-time additional tax-free payment of $1000 to eligible British Columbians on CERB in May.
Applications are now open. Apply online.
Pandemic Pay COVID-19 Pandemic Pay provides eligible workers a lump-sum payment of ~$4/hr for a 16-weeks, starting on March 15. This boost is expected to benefit nearly 250,000 front-line workers providing critical public services to vulnerable populations where maintaining physical distancing is difficult or impossible in health, social services, and corrections. No application necessary, will be paid as lump sum through employers.
Low- and moderate- income households GST-credit will provide an additional one-time boost for eligible individuals in April. Benefit is paid out according to your income tax return.  More info here.
Climate Action Tax Credit will provide an additional one-time boost of up to $564 for eligible families of 4 and $218 for eligible individuals in an enhanced payment in July. Children under 18 years old must be registered for the CCB to qualify. No other action is needed; benefit is paid out according to your income tax return. More info here.
Families with children Canada Child Benefit (CCB) provides one-time boost of up to $300 per child in May. No action if you are already registered for CCB. Otherwise, apply online.
Emergency Child Care Funding provides child care providers with emergency government funding on the condition that they not charge parents fees for any periods of closure or for vacant spaces and must reserve spaces for families, starting April. Check with your provider to see if they are in this program.
Temporary Emergency Child Care available for essential service workers. Use the child care matching service for kids aged 0-5, otherwise contact your school directly for school aged kids. 1-888-338-6622 or register online for kids 0-5.
Otherwise, contact your school.
Children and Youth with Special Needs (CYSN) services are available to families with greater flexibility. Emergency Relief Support Fund will also provide eligible families with direct payments of $225/month for three months. More info.
WE Schools @ home and EASE at Home (Everyday Anxiety Strategies for Educators) are new, free virtual educational programs available for students, parents and educators to support the mental health of K-12 children. More info.
School Districts are working with financially struggling families to:
– Ensure school meals programs are still available where needed; and
– Enable remote learning by K-12 students through technology loans and by working with internet service providers to offer low-cost internet, unlimited cellphone data plans, or local internet hotspots.
Contact your school principal.
Youth-in-Care Youth in Care will not age out of services during the pandemic.
Agreements With Young Adults Program (AYA) program payments will continue to former youth-in-care despite school closures and training interruptions.
Post-Secondary Students Emergency Assistance available for students at public post-secondary institutions. Non-repayable funds can be used to help with a broad range of costs, including living expenses, food, travel, portable computers and other supports for students who are not already able to study remotely. Contact your school’s financial aid office to apply. See backgrounder for contact list.
Indigenous Emergency Assistance Fund available for Indigenous students at public post-secondary institutions can apply for non-repayable emergency assistance that can be used to help with a broad range of costs, including living expenses, groceries, cell phone bills, childcare, medical, dental, optical, and travel costs for family crisis or community obligations. Contact the Indigenous Student Service Centre on campus. See backgrounder for contact list.
Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) would provide eligible students and new graduates who do not qualify for CERB $1250/month or $1750/month to those with dependants or disabilities. Legislation is required for this program. If passed, it would be available May-August 2020. Applications not yet available. Read more.
Canada Student Service Grant will provide students who choose to do national service and serve their communities up to $5000 for their education in the fall.  Applications not yet available. Read more.
Canada Student Grants is an existing program. Maximum grants for eligible full-time students will be doubled to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21. The Canada Student Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependents would also be doubled.  Apply online. (Note: Increased grant amounts may not yet be updated on the website.)
Temporary removal of the restriction that allows international students to work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session, provided they are working in an essential service or function. No application required. Learn more.
BC Student Loans repayments paused for six months without penaltystarting April. Repayment will be paused automatically.
Canada Student Loans repayments paused for six months without penaltystarting April. Maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 has been raised from $210 to $350. Repayment will be paused automatically.
Here2Talk provides free, confidential mental-health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students by app, phone, or online chat, 24-7. Call 1-877-857-3397 to speak with a counsellor or get more information online.
People on Income Assistance – Full exemption of CERB or EI for three months (no clawback).
– COVID-19 Crisis Supplement of additional $300/month for three months for those who do not qualify for federal emergency supports like CERB or EI.
– “Work search” requirement for those on Income Assistance is suspended for now.
No action required, support boosts will be applied to next payments automatically. More info here.
People on Disability Assistance – Full exemption of CERB or EI for three months (no clawback).
– COVID-19 Crisis Supplement of additional $300/month for three months for those who do not qualify for federal emergency supports like CERB or EI.
– Those on BC Bus Pass Program will receive their $52 transportation supplement back in cash for the months that transit bus fares are free. Transit fares return June 1.

No action required, support boosts will be applied to next payments automatically. More info here.

***Note*** Those wishing to opt out of the BC Bus Pass program must make their request by June 5 in time for their July cheque to be processed with the additional $52.

Seniors COVID-19 Crisis Supplement: Low-income seniors who receive the B.C. Senior’s Supplement will receive an additional $300/month boost for three months.

No action required, support boosts will be applied to next payments automatically. More info here.

 

One-time tax-free payment of $300 for seniors eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, with an additional $200 for seniors eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). New announcement, further details to come.
Existing federal programs continue to be available, including:
– Canada Pension Plan Retirement Pension
– Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit
– Old Age Security (OAS): $614/mo (max)
– Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS): $916/mo (max)
– Allowance / Allowance for Survivor: $1389/mo (max)
Eligible seniors can apply online if they are not already enrolled.
Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs): Minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) has been reduced by 25% for 2020. Learn more here.
bc211 is available for seniors who need support with non-medical essentials, like grocery pick-up and drop off. Call 2-1-1 or visit online.
MISC SUPPORTS FOR PEOPLE
Automobile Auto insurance can be renewed by email or phone. Contact your broker.
ICBC auto insurance:
– Monthly payment deferral for ICBC auto insurance is available for up to 90 days with no penalty.
– Contact your broker to change your coverage and lower premiums to reflect changes in how much you drive and the related risk.
– Cancellation fees are waived for those who wish to cancel their insurance during this time.
– Customers may use their vehicles for the delivery of food or medical products and services, without changing their insurance (vehicle use) or paying a higher premium. This includes people volunteering to help deliver groceries or other essential supplies to seniors and other people in need.
Call 1-800-665-6442 or view more info.
ICBC driver licensing:
– Remote extensions for driver licensing available. All requests for medical information temporarily postponed.
– People whose learner driver’s licences (class 5-8) expire during the pandemic will not have to pay a fee for their first knowledge test after their learner driver’s licence expires, once testing resumes.
Call 1-800-950-1498.
Parking is free of charge at all health authority owned/operated health care sites like hospitals, clinics, long-term care centres, etc. For staff, patients, and visitors only.
Justice & Law Limitation periods to commence court proceedings have been suspended.
Civil Resolution Tribunal deadlines extended; fees waived for those struggling financially. Apply via Fee Waiver Request Form.
Remote execution of legal documents allowed during pandemic.
Mental Health Access to free and low-cost virtual mental health services has been expanded across BC for adults, seniors, and youth. Front-line health care workers experiencing distress and mental health concerns in response to COVID-19 now also have access to increased mental health services. Full list of available services here.
New BC COVID-19 mental health self-assessment tool will be available April 20. Use the tool online.
VictimLink BC provides immediate 24/7 crisis support for victims of family or sexual violence is available by phone through VictimLink BC’s 24/7 telephone service. Call 1-800-564-0808 or send an email for more info.
Here2Talk provides free, confidential mental-health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students by app, phone, or online chat, 24-7. Call 1-877-857-3397 to speak with a counsellor or get more information online.
Wellness Together Canada provides free tools and resources to help Canadians get back on track. These include modules for addressing low mood, worry, substance use, social isolation and relationship issues as well as counselling by text and phone.
Wellness Together Canada
WE Schools @ home and EASE at Home (Everyday Anxiety Strategies for Educators) are new, free virtual educational programs available for students, parents, and educators to support the mental health of K-12 children. More info.
Public Transit TransLink: Fare-free boarding on all buses ends on May 31. Enter through rear of the bus, unless accessible loading is required. July 1 fare increase is deferred indefinitely. Service reductions in effect: check online before you go.
BC Transit: Fare-free boarding on all buses ends on May 31. Enter through rear of the bus, unless accessible loading is required.
Taxes Filing due date for Income Tax Return is deferred to June 1. Payments owed are deferred until August 31.
Free community tax clinics may now operate virtually. More info.
Travel Emergency repatriation assistance is available to Canadians who are abroad and having difficulty returning to Canada. Dial +1 613-996-8885 (call collect where available); or call a toll free number; or use the online form; or send an email.
Emergency Travel Loan of $5000 available to Canadians who are abroad and unable to return to Canada. Dial +1 613-996-8885 (call collect where available); or send an email.
British Columbians returning home must self-isolate for 14 days. Emergency Management BC and Service BC will provide support to enable compliance. More info.
SUPPORTS DELIVERED BY CHARITIES & NOT-FOR-PROFITS
Community Living BC (CLBC) Provincial emergency COVID-19 funding to ensure people with developmental disabilities stay supported and safe during the pandemic.
EquipCare BC Provides enhanced infection prevention and control in long-term care and assisted living homes. Funds administered through the BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA).
Family Caregivers of BC Increased funding to enhance support to family caregivers who help seniors remain at home, such as expanded toll-free support line hours, emotional supports and health-care navigation.
Food Banks BC Funding boost to Food Banks British Columbia, who will distribute the money among food banks province wide.
Kids Help Phone Funding boost to Kids Help Phone, which provides young people with mental health support.
 Libraries Enhanced funding for libraries to provide greater access to online resources.
 New Horizons for Seniors Program Flexibility for organizations under the New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) to use funding previously received through the community-based stream to provide immediate and essential services to seniors impacted by COVID-19
United Way Canada Funding boost to United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors, such as: Delivery of groceries, medications, or other needed items; or personal outreach to assess individuals’ needs and connect them to community supports.
 viaSport Funding boost, through viaSport, to provincial, disability, and multi-sport organizations.
This list has been curated to include improvements that are most likely to impact you directly. Some funding boosts may not be listed.
BUSINESSES
BC Hydro BC Hydro is halting all service disconnections for non-payment of bills and reducing electricity rates by 1%.
COVID-19 Relief Fund waives electricity charges for up to three months for small businesses that needed to close due to COVID-19. Applications will be accepted between April 13 – June 30 (no rush to apply). Check back for link when available.
COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program offers bill deferral and payment plans for customers struggling due to impacts of COVID-19. Customer Assistance: Call 1-800-BC-HYDRO
ICBC Fleet vehicle customers may suspend their insurance during COVID-19. More info.
 Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) Will provide bridge financing to Canada’s largest employers, whose needs during the pandemic are not being met through conventional financing, in order to keep their operations going. Companies seeking support must demonstrate how they intend to preserve employment and maintain investment activities, commit to respect collective bargaining agreements and protect workers’ pensions, and require strict limits to dividends, share buy-backs, and executive pay. More info.
Electronic Meetings Companies, societies, and co-operatives are allowed to hold electronic meetings, overriding requirements under the Business Corporations Act, Societies Act and Cooperative Association Act that prohibit electronic meetings, including a corporation’s own articles, bylaws or rules. More info.
WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC is available to support workplaces as they resume operations. Learn about returning to safe operations.
Payment deadlines are postponed without penalty until June 30, except for employers that report on an annual basis (which do not need to report their 2020 payroll or pay their 2020 premiums until March 2021). More info.
Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA): Loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses and not-for-profits, interest-free for one year. A portion may be forgivable. Eligibility has been expanded to include companies with 2019 payrolls of between $20,000 and $1.5 million.
– Note #1: Non-eligible small and medium businesses may be able to receive similar financing support through their local Regional Development Agency.

Note #2: Non-eligible small and medium Indigenous businesses may be able to similar financing support through Aboriginal Financial Institutions. Learn more.

– Note #3: Eligibility has been further expanded to include some sole proprietors, businesses that rely on contractors, and family-owned corporations that pay employees through dividends rather than payroll.

Speak with your financial institution. Learn more.
Loan Guarantee: Operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million to SMEs. Available mid-April. Speak with your financial institution. Learn more.
Co-Lending Program: Co-lend term loans to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements. Eligible businesses may obtain incremental credit amounts of up to $6.25 million through the program. Available mid-April. Speak with your financial institution. Learn more.
BCAP will be expanded to mid-sized companies with larger financing needs. Loans of up to $60 million per company, and guarantees of up to $80 million. Speak with your financial institution. Learn more.
 Commercial leases Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) will lower commercial rent by up to 75% for eligible businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 through a combination of forgivable loans and rent reductions by commercial landlords. Applications to open May 25.  Apply online
Wage subsidies Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) covers up to 75% of wages for businesses, charities, and non-profits that have lost more than 25% of their revenue. Max subsidy of $847 per week per employee, from March 15 – June 6. Qualifying employers may also be eligible for 100% refunds on certain employer-paid contributions to EI and CPP.
Apply online. Applications are now open.
Temporary Wage Subsidy covers up to 10% of payroll for small businesses, not-for-profits, charities between March 18-June 19. Organizations that do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy may qualify for this program. You do not need to apply for this subsidy; you reduce it from remittance to the CRA. Learn more.
Canada Summer Jobs Program wage subsidy is increased to 100% of minimum wage. Eligibility for this program has also been relaxed. More info.
Taxes BC business tax payments deferred until after Sept 30: Employer health tax (EHT), provincial sales tax (PST), municipal and regional district tax, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax, and carbon tax. Scheduled April 1 increases to provincial carbon tax and PST are deferred. More info.
School property tax rate for commercial properties reduced to achieve an average 25% reduction in the total property tax bill for most businesses. This enhances the 50% reduction to the provincial school property tax rate that was originally announced for classes 4, 5, and 6. More info.
Late payment penalties will not apply for commercial properties in classes 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 until Oct. 1, 2020.
GST/HST payments owed deferred to June 30.
Customs duties & taxes payments owed deferred to June 30.
Income tax payments owed are deferred until after August 31.
Other Temporary lay-off period during COVID-19 has been extended to 16 weeks.
The BC Government has launched a single point of contact for businesses throughout the province looking for information on resources available during the COVID-19 pandemic. Advisors are available Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1 833 254-4357. Inquiries can also be emailed or raised via live-chat.
INDUSTRY SUPPORTS BY SECTOR
Agri-Food and Farmers Access to the $5 billion Farm Credit Canada loan program. Via FCC.
Socio-economic and cultural supports for temporary foreign workers arriving for seasonal farm work while they self-isolate, including hotel and food costs. Learn more.
Emergency Processing Fund, national AgriRecovery initiatives, Surplus Food Purchase Program, AgriStability, AgriInsurance programs launched to support the farming, food businesses, and food processing sectors. Learn more.
Expedited process for temporary foreign workers to start new jobs now in place. Learn more.
BuyBC e-commerce funding provides grants of up to $5000 to help access and develop websites that accommodate online sales and helps cover the costs of marketing and shipping products to consumers throughout the province. Online applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, from May 15 to May 29, or when the funding is fully subscribed. Apply online.
Airports Rents paid on ground leases waived.
Animal welfare Bear Smart Community Program helps people live peacefully with bears. Learn more.
Funding is available to support the care of animals in B.C.’s shelters, BC SPCA facilities, zoos and aquariums. Learn more.
Arts & Culture sector
 Arts & Culture sector $3-million Arts and Culture Resilience Supplement to give operating and eligible project clients a supplement of up to $15,000. Clients will receive a 50% advance on 2020-21 funding. Via BC Arts Council.
Broadcasting sector CRTC Part I licence fees waived.
Child care sector Emergency funding is available for child care providers that stay open and that close. Learn more.
Wage enhancement of $2/hr in place for Early Childhood Educators (ECEs). This is a continuation of the broader wage enhancement program to support expansion of licensed child care in BC.
 Cultural, Heritage, Sports COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations. Via Canadian Heritage
Entrepreneurs, Innovators and Pre-Revenue Firms Financing, mentoring and support tools to entrepreneurs aged 18-39. Via Futurpreneur Canada
Advice, connections, and funding to help Canadian pre-revenue businesses. Via Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)
 Fish harvesters Federal support for Canada’s fish harvesters. More info.
Food & Beverage Liquor products may be delivered with meals for pick-up/delivery using staff with Serving-It-Right certification.
Renewal fees for non-retail liquor licenses expiring between March 31 and June 30, 2020 will be deferred until Sept. 30, 2020. Learn more.
Forestry sector Stumpage is deferred for three months, with interest.
Local governments Responding to key concerns from local governments, the Government of BC is addressing cash flow and revenue shortfalls with new measures that provide additional support. Learn more.
Public hearings may be held electronically during the current provincial state of emergency. Learn more.
Musicians Showcase BC is a new online hub that brings a variety of live performances, entertainment and content to British Columbians. Micro-grants of $500 to emerging artists and $2,000 to established artists for livestreaming, songwriting and professional development are also available. Grants distributed via Creative BC.
Oil & gas sector Orphan wells and inactive oil and gas sites will be reclaimed using federal funding distributed to provinces for this purpose.
Pension plan sponsors Moratorium on solvency payment requirements for defined benefit plans through the remainder of 2020.
Publishing and news sectors Simplified process for Canada Book Fund and Canada Periodical Fund. Journalism Tax Measures. More info.
Tourism businesses in national parks and historic sites Tourism operators in national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas will have payments on commercial leases and licences of occupation deferred without interest until September 1. Wait to be contacted by Parks Canada.
Truck drivers More portable toilets are being installed to support truck drivers along routes where their usual facilities have closed. Food trucks are being deployed at provincially-owned locations. Trucker Food Truck locations.
Seafood sector Seafood growers, shellfish farmers, and processors, will have access to the $5 billion Farm Credit Canada loan program. Via FCC.
This list has been curated to include sectoral supports, some supports may not be listed.