Managing Uncertain Times
Written by Sandra Foster

Friday, May 1st, 2020

Whether you're working as part of an essential service, hunkering down in place, or have lost your income, you and your finances have likely been affected by the novel coronavirus.

If you lose income due to COVID-19, your focus shifts to getting through the month, staying fed, and keeping the lights on and a roof over your head. It doesn't make sense to fret about the long term until you're able to pay for the immediate necessities.

Getting Through the Next Few Months

To get though the next few months, find cash where you can (I've cashed in points on my loyalty cards), apply for the appropriate government benefits and programs, slash or cut back your expenses, don't be afraid to ask for help, and if you need to, apply for temporary relief on certain personal debts.

Find Cash or Income

  1. File Your Tax Return

Do you expect a tax refund? Even though the filing deadline for individuals is now June 1, you can file your 2019 personal tax return sooner. If you use NETFILE-certified tax software and direct deposit, you may receive your refund in two weeks. If you end up owing tax, you'll want to make sure you file on time, but you don't have to settle up with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) until September 1, 2020.

You can use this checklist to make filing your taxes easier.

  1. Apply For Your Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The Federal Government's CERB is a $500 weekly taxable benefit for up to 16 weeks that covers eligible full-time and part-time workers in Canada who qualify. The Government extended CERB to include seasonal workers. You can see if you're eligible for the CERB here.

Apply for your CERB online or by phone through Service Canada or the CRA (but not both) as soon as you're eligible. You should receive your first benefit within 10 days of applying if you arrange for direct deposit of your payments.

Students and recent graduates who don't qualify for the CERB may find some income support under the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). The CESB provides $1,250 per month for eligible students from May through August 2020.

Pre-authorized Canada Student Loan and Canada Apprentice Loan repayments will automatically be stopped until September 30, 2020.

  1. Use Your Emergency Fund

If you have an emergency fund, it's OK to dip into it to help pay your essential expenses during a time of crisis — that's what it's for. If you think the job market will be tight or will take longer to reopen, determine how long your money might last and decide if you need to make some changes to help it last as long as possible.

If You Don't Have an Emergency Fund or It's Run Dry, You're Not Alone

If your income and savings from all sources won't cover your basic needs and debts, don't be afraid or too embarrassed to ask for help, even if you've always been able to make it on your own in the past.

  1. Ways to Deal With Debts You Have Trouble Paying

If you need help with your short-term cash flow, you might be eligible for a short-term temporary deferral on certain personal debts you have with your financial institution, such as your mortgage, line of credit or personal loan.

Contact your financial institution for the details of their programs and to apply.

Keep in mind that this kind of payment deferral comes at a cost. By deferring the principal and/or interest on these debts, you'll end up with more debt that could then take you longer to pay off.

Stay Up-To-Date

Over the last few weeks, the Canadian Government has expanded its response to COVID-19 and the financial pain Canadians are experiencing.

Find the most up-to-date list of programs for individuals and businesses here.

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