The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact countries across the globe, and Canada is no exception. Canadian borders were closed and then the province of Ontario ordered the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces as of Tuesday, March 24th at 11:59 p.m.
As everyday life gets disrupted, Ontarians are trying to figure out what this means for not only their everyday routine in the months to come, but what it could mean for the long term – finances, education, and essential needs.
In this article, we cover a few tips on what there is to know about COVID-19 Ontario programs and policies in place to help you.
K12 School & Secondary Schools – On March 12, 2020, publicly-funded schools in Ontario remain closed from March 14th to May 4th, and it does not seem like they will be opening soon. Parents working from home are now having to juggle working from home and looking after their kids.
The Ministry of Education is helping parents keep their children on track with the school curriculum. However, they are left to try and find resources online. A few websites that may help with this task:
- www.khanacademy.org (free)
- https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html (free)
- https://www.dreambox.com/at-home (free 90 days subscription)
Post-Secondary Courses – While younger students struggle to learn without a regular classroom setting, university students are also struggling to complete courses out of the classroom.
The impact is visible across all areas: the cancellation or postponement of convocations, alternative grading options, re-weighted assignments, reduced campus services for residences, cancellation of in-person exams, transitioning to virtual alternatives, and the list goes on.
Universities across Ontario are doing their best to respond quickly and help students complete their academic year. To find out how a specific university is accommodating students, visit Ontariouniversities.ca where you can find Ontario’s universities updates on COVID-19.
Student Loans – Post secondary students paying off financial aid loans from the Ontario Student Assistant Program during COVID-19 are being provided with a temporary deferral on payments from March 30 to September 20, 2020. Students are not required to make payments, and no payments will be automatically withdrawn if students have pre-authorized debits. In addition, no interest will accrue on the loan.
As workers are either being laid off or working reduced hours, finances are one of the biggest concerns for Canadians. How do you manage monthly payments during COVID-19? We provide a summary below.
Rent – One major concern is rent changes during COVID-19. For Ontario, there is still no final word as organizations, renters are petitioning for a rent freeze.
Renters are encouraged to pay what they can towards their rent, and landlords are being encouraged to work with tenants to set arrangements or deferrals. Major landlords in Ontario – Northview Apartment REIT, Greenwin Corp., MetCap Living, and Boardwalk REIT – are said to have some relief measures in place.
Renters are being assured that even though landlords can still give eviction notices, no new eviction orders will be issued. As of now, eviction applications, enforcement of eviction orders and hearings related to eviction applications are suspended.
Business owners may also be falling behind on rent as non-essential businesses are being forced to close with no means of income to pay the rent. It can be difficult to break your Ontario commercial lease, but there are ways you can make a smooth exit.
Mortgages – To help with mortgage payments, major Canadian banks are offering deferrals on mortgage payments for up to 6 months. In order to qualify for a deferral, applicants must be those who have been in good standing and affected by COVID-19. Banks will evaluate on a case-by-case basis.
If looking to apply, be sure to consider if there are any other appropriate options for you such as reducing monthly payments, if interest will continue to accrue, and what options there are for insured mortgages. Canada’s Big Six banks have more information on their sites:
Taxes – The CRA is giving Canadian citizens and businesses more time for tax-filing and payment deadlines during COVID-19. The new return filing due date for individuals has been extended to June 1, 2020. In addition, new tax balance payments are deferred until after August 31, 2020, penalty and interest free if deferred payment requirements are met by September 1st.
For self-employed business owners, the filing date has not changed (Jun 15, 2020), though, the CRA is allowing the payments of any taxes to be deferred until after August 31, 2020.
With regards to everyday living, essential workplaces like grocery stores, pharmacies, and hardware stores are still up and running.
Grocery Stores – Grocery stores, you’ll find are trying to enforce public safety and health measures. Lineups into the stores and at the cashiers inside are being organized to enforce social distancing with people 6 feet apart, and only a restricted number of people are allowed inside at all times. So if you’re making a trip, be prepared to wait in lines.
Some shopping tips:
- Stock up on items that can perform the same task. For instance, you can use natural body wash as hand soap rather than buying both.
- Instead of buying bottled water, invest in water filter systems, like Brita water pitchers to provide you with a more efficient supply of water.
- For staple items like pasta and bread, go for flour and other baking goods to try making your own instead. One time investments in pasta or bread makers (or online tutorials) could save you more money and trips to the store.
- And shopping for non-perishable items is always a good rule of thumb to follow (soup, tuna, canned or frozen vegetables, bags of rice, peanut butter, etc.)
For those who are still wary of heading out, there is always online shopping. As post offices are still open as an essential workplace, deliveries are still possible.
Cannabis –Until recently, regulated cannabis stores, producers, and their supply chains were considered essential services, which meant that, whether buying for recreational purposes, medical conditions, or for health and wellness, consumers still had access to a safe and legal supply.
Since Saturday, April 3rd, 2020, the federal government excluded pot stores from the list. A recent emergency order though, just a couple of days later on April 7th allowed stores to offer curbside pick up or delivery to customers.
Cannabis has been known to treat conditions such as anxiety, depression, seizures and chronic pain. There are currently over 40 cannabis stores in Ontario you can visit for pickup. The OCS, however, still remains the only legal way to buy cannabis online in Ontario.
Alcohol – LCBO stores are still open in Ontario along with beer stores. While this means you can cope with the lock down with a cold one at home, it also means that people dealing with alcohol abuse, addiction, and withdrawals can also cope and avoid serious medical issues if cut off from alcohol completely.
However, LCBO announced that they will be closed Mondays after an employee was reported to have been diagnosed. The store’s reduced hours (11:00 am to 6:00 pm) will continue to apply Tuesdays through Sundays.
To find help with mental health and addiction issues during COVID-19, visit the Health and Wellness section of the Ontario.ca website where you can get confidential support and information.
Service Canada Offices – This last section, while not primarily Ontario-focused, is just as important to note. The federal government just recently announced that, while classified as an essential workplace, in-person Service Canada centers are temporarily closing. People who need to apply for employment insurance, pension benefits and other programs and services are being directed to call instead or apply online where they can still access their benefits.