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Canada's Economic Response to COVID-19

May 11, 2020
Reyhan Balikci

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a serious health threat to people around the world and a significant disruption to daily life. Many sectors are feeling the hard hit of the temporary isolation, and the economic repercussions are hard to ignore, as many Canadians face layoffs or temporary unpaid leave.

Canada's Economic Response to COVID-19
Please note: This article is accurate as of the publication time stated above. However, with the situation around COVID-19 changing frequently, the information in the text below may not be up-to-date following the date of publication. To receive the latest updates around COVID-19, please visit the World Health Organization's (WHO) website and the Government of Canada's COVID-19 page.

To help Canadians facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government of Canada is taking immediate, significant, and decisive action. Alongside the public health actions needed to contain the spread of the virus, including school closures, states of emergency, and social distancing measures, which have significantly impacted economic activity, the Government ensures Canadians will receive the financial assistance they need during this time.

How is the Government supporting Canadians financially? 

On March 18, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new set of economic measures to help stabilize the economy during this challenging period. These measures, delivered as part of the Government of Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, will provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses.

Aside from the Economic Response Plan, the Government has worked with financial institutions, including companies providing mortgages, to assist individuals with a payment plan. Many credit card and loan companies have also implemented a payment plan to support those in need. 

This guide provides a basic overview of the financial benefits Canadians can receive. To find out more detailed information as to how you can benefit from government support, visit the Government of Canada's website: 

Individuals Facing Loss of Income 

1) Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The CERB provides a taxable benefit of $2,000 every four weeks for up to 16 weeks to eligible workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19. It is available to workers who meet all of the following conditions:

  • Live in Canada and are at least 15 years old
  • Stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits
  • Have not voluntarily quit their job
  • Had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or the 12 months prior to the date of their application.

Additionally, the Government has announced changes to the eligibility rules to:

  • Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.
  • Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19.
  • Extend the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.

Keep in mind that if you are eligible for a new EI claim starting March 15, 2020, or after, your EI Regular and Sickness benefits will be delivered as part of the Government of Canada's Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Individuals or families with low-income 

1) Temporary salary top-up for low-income essential workers

For over 12 million low- and modest-income families, who may require additional help with their finances, the Government is proposing to provide a one-time special payment by early May 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC). This will double the maximum annual GSTC payment amounts for the 2019-2020 benefit year. The average boost to income for those benefitting from this measure will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. 

2) Increase the Canada Child Benefit

The Government of Canada has increased the child care benefit by up to an extra $300 per child through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for 2019-2020. This will mean approximately $550 more for the average family.

This benefit will be delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment in May.

3) Special Goods and Services Tax credit payment

Starting April 09, 2020, a one-time special payment through the Goods and Services Tax will provide additional credit for low- and modest-income families. The average additional benefit will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples.

4) Extra time to file income tax returns

The filing due date for 2019 income tax returns for individuals has been deferred until June 1, 2020. Any new income tax balances due, or instalments, are also being deferred until after August 31, 2020, without incurring interest or penalties.

People who need it most 

1) Improving access to essential food support

The Government of Canada has stated that $100 million will go towards assisting national, regional, and local organizations across Canada to:

  • Purchase, transport and distribute food and other basic necessities
  • Hire temporary help to fill volunteer shortages
  • Implement safety measures, such as the purchase of personal protective equipment, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among volunteers and clients.

Organizations including, but not limited to, Food Banks Canada, Salvation Army, Second Harvest, Community Food Centres Canada, and Breakfast Club of Canada, will work with government partners to meet the urgent food needs of Canadians.

2) Supporting people experiencing homelessness

Approximately $157.5 million will be provided to the Reaching Home initiative to support people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. The funding could be used for a range of needs, such as purchasing beds and physical barriers for social distancing and securing accommodation to reduce overcrowding in shelters.

3) Delivering essential services to those in need

An additional $350 million will be provided to support vulnerable Canadians through charities and non-profit organizations that deliver essential services to those in need. It will support a variety of activities, such as:

  • Increasing volunteer-based home deliveries of groceries and medications
  • Providing transportation services, like accompanying or driving seniors or persons with disabilities to appointments
  • Scaling up helplines that provide information and support
  • Helping vulnerable Canadians access government benefits
  • Providing training, supplies, and other required supports to volunteers so they can continue to make their invaluable contributions to the COVID-19 response
  • Replacing in-person, one-on-one contact and social gatherings with virtual contact through phone calls, texts, teleconferences, or the Internet
  • Supporting women and children fleeing violence
  • Providing youth with mental health support

Indigenous Peoples 

To address the immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities, $305 million will be provided for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund. These funds could be used for measures including, but not limited to:

  • Support for Elders and vulnerable community members,
  • Measures to address food insecurity,
  • Educational and other support for children,
  • Mental health assistance and emergency response services,
  • Preparedness measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

An additional $25 million will be provided to Nutrition North Canada to increase subsidies so families can afford personal hygiene products and nutritious food.

Support for students and recent graduates

The Federal Government proposed $9 billion of relief for post-secondary students and recent graduates. The proposed programs include:

  • Canada Emergency Student Benefit, which would provide $1,250 per month ($1,750 for students with dependents or disabilities), between May and August 2020, to eligible students who do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit
  •  The Canada Student Service Grant, which will provide up to $5,000 to students who perform service work in their communities. 

The Government will expand existing federal employment, skills development, and youth programming to create up to 116,000 additional student jobs, placements, and training opportunities. 

In addition, for the 2020-21 year, the Government will:  

  • Double the Canada Student Grants amount, to $6,000 for full-time students and $3,600 for part-time students
  • Broaden eligibility for student financial assistance
  • Raise the minimum weekly amount under the Canada Student Loans from $210 to $350
  • Provide $75.2 million of funds for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students
  • Provide $291.6 million to federal granting councils to support graduate research scholarships, postdoctoral fellowships, and federal research grants.


"Our message to Canadians is clear: to every worker and business, in every province and territory, we have your back, and we will get through this together."
- The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
"Canadians have a history of coming together to confront big and serious challenges, whatever they may be. We have been working very closely with our provincial and territorial colleagues, and we will continue to do so. Today's announcement is further proof of our commitment to keep Canadians safe and provide them with the help that is needed."
- The Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
"The resources announced today will help our hospitals and clinics across the country respond to any surge in demand. They will also increase our ability to educate Canadians about actions we can all take to limit the spread of COVID-19. I thank all health care workers and organizations working so hard to protect the health of Canadians. We stand by you and will ensure that you have the resources you need to continue your vital work."
- The Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health
"The fundamentals of the Canadian economy are strong. But we know COVID-19 is having an impact on global economic activity, and our strong fiscal position means we are well-positioned to respond to any challenges. This announcement demonstrates that the Government is ready to act to protect Canadians and ensure that our economy remains strong."
- The Hon. Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance

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