Though many parts of the world have slowed to a stop, governments everywhere are acting fast to try and mitigate the economic fallout related to COVID-19. Here in Canada, the government has quickly enacted a variety of programs that are meant to support those most affected by the pandemic and resulting quarantine.
But navigating the complexities of these programs – who’s eligible, how to apply, and just what exactly they provide – can be complicated. Especially for med students like you, who, depending on employment and/or educational status, may fall into a variety of different categories (and who, by the way, are still taking courses remotely – but you knew that already).
Together with the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, we’ve compiled and summarized some of the most important financial information you need to be aware of during this exceptional (and exceptionally strange) time.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is the big one you’ve probably been hearing about. The Canadian government is providing eligible workers – those who have lost income due to quarantine restrictions and other COVID-19 related issues – with $2,000/month for up to four months (if you’re interested, you can determine your eligibility and apply here).
Because the CERB is focused on people who are already in the workforce, most med students will find themselves ineligible for the program.
Canada Emergency Student Benefit
For post-secondary students who aren’t eligible for the CERB or Employment Insurance (EI), the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) provides students and new graduates with a payment of $1,250/month from May 2020 to August 2020 ($2,000/month for those with a disability or dependants). The CESB will be delivered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
You are eligible for the CESB if you:
- Are currently enrolled in a college or university program
- Planned to start college/university in September 2020
- Graduated from college/university in December 2019
- Are a working student earning less than $1,000/month
- Are actively looking but unable to find full-time employment or are unable to work due to COVID-19
To recognize students' significant contributions to the COVID-19 efforts, the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) will provide up to $5,000 towards your post-secondary education costs in the fall if you are volunteering in the fight against COVID-19. More details will be made available on the I Want to Help platform over the coming weeks, including more detailed information about eligibility, the levels of funding available under the grant, how to apply for a national service position, and how applications will be assessed.
The government will double the Canada Student Grants (CSG), up to $6,000 for full-time students and $3,600 for part-time students for the 2020-2021 school year. The CSG for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependants would also be doubled. Also, there will be a broadening of eligibility for student financial assistance by removing the expected student’s and spouse’s contributions in 2020-21. The government has also signaled an intention to raise the maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 from $210 to $350. The above changes are affected via the Canada Student Loans Program (CLSP). Students in Quebec, Northwest Territories and Nunavut do not receive CLSP support as these jurisdictions run their own student financial assistance programs. Additional compensation will be offered to provinces and territories that do not participate in the CSLP.
Read more about the Government of Canada’s support for students and recent graduates.
Student Loans & Interest Rates
If you have a Canada Student Loan, there will be an automatic pause on your repayment schedule between March 30, 2020 to September 30, 2020. No interest will accrue during this period. This moratorium applies to the federal portion of student loans. Students should check with their provincial or territorial student loan provider to see if payment is required on the provincial or territorial portion.
The Bank of Canada’s overnight rate is now at 0.25% which has brought the prime rate set by chartered banks down to 2.45%. For med students who are using instruments like lines of credit to finance their education, this means you are paying less interest on your loans going forward.
The deadlines for your 2019 personal tax returns have been pushed to later dates. The due date for filing your individual tax return is now June 1, 2020 and any taxes owing is due September 1, 2020.
While having a little extra time might give you some peace of mind, try to file as quickly as possible—especially if you’re expecting a tax refund. This will ensure that you continue to receive whatever benefits that you’re eligible for, including the GST/HST credit, Canada Child Benefit, and other provincial rebates.
If you’re eligible for the Canada Child Benefit, you’ll receive a one-time extra payment of $300 per child in May. There is no need to apply for this payment. If you are eligible, you will get it automatically.
If you’re eligible for the Goods and Services Tax /Harmonized Sales Tax Credit, you’ll receive a one-time special payment. The average additional benefit will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. Like the Canada Child Benefit, there is no need to apply for this payment. If you are eligible, you will get it automatically.
Canada’s big six banks have committed to deferring mortgage payments on a case-by-case basis. If you have a mortgage with Scotiabank and you are experiencing financial hardship, you can request a mortgage deferral for up to six months. For details, please see the latest updates at Scotiabank.com.
During the deferral period, interest will continue to accrue, so your payments will be slightly higher after the deferral period ends.
The Canadian Federation of Medical Students has compiled an overview of recent events and their financial implications to Canadian medical students, which you can read here.
To get a big picture view of how these economic support measures relate to everyone in the world of medicine – from students and residents to practising physicians and retirees – you can check out MD Financial’s COVID-19 Support Measures: At a Glance.