B.C. coronavirus resources: A list of emergency aid available
A man walks past a McDonald's restaurant with boarded up windows in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
VANCOUVER -- Help is available for British Columbians during the COVID-19 pandemic in many forms: renters' rebates, employment insurance and more.
But what are the options, and how to you do apply? Which online forms do you fill out, who do you call, and when?
Here's a round-up of various benefits and services available through the governments of Canada and British Columbia.
B.C. is offering a one-time payment of $1,000 for people who lost income. This is available only for British Columbians who receive federal employment insurance or the new federal emergency response benefit.
The application process for this payment, which will be sent out in May, is not yet available.
Employees are advised they can take unpaid job-protected leave related to COVID-19 if they're unable to work for a variety of reasons listed online.
Anyone having issues with their employer regarding the Employment Standards Act can submit a complaint to the province online.
Looking for guidance? Here's some advice from WorkSafeBC.
Income and disability assistance
The province is temporarily exempting federal employment insurance benefits for the next three months for those who are eligible.
This is to allow anyone already getting income or disability assistance to benefit from those new federal support programs without seeing reductions to their monthly payments.
For those ineligible for federal benefits, the province will automatically add $300 a month to their assistance cheques as a supplement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Help with housing expenses
The province announced supports for renters and landlords earlier this week, including rent increase freezes, a rent rebate and rental supplements.
There's no place to apply yet, as the program will take some time to set up. BC Housing expects the public will be able to apply online in early April. More information here.
When it comes to mortgages, six Canadian banks have announced six-month deferrals on payments to help ease financial hardship.
Property owners are advised to get in touch with their bank or broker directly.
Those worried about paying utilities bills can defer payments or apply for grants by calling BC Hydro's customer service line at 1-800-224-9376.
BC Hydro is also offering credits and "payment holidays" for those struggling to make ends meet. Customers have until the end of June to apply.
The application is expected to be available sometime during the week of April 6 for homeowners and renters, and the following week for businesses.
FortisBC waived late payment fees and says it will ensure no one is cut off. For more information, contact 1-866-436-7847 regarding electricity, or 1-888-224-2710 for natural gas, or send an email.
The province said FortisBC and the B.C. Utilities Commission are discussing further possible measures they might take.
Want to check your symptoms? The province launched an online tool earlier this month meant to help anyone who's concerned assess whether their fears are warranted.
Keep in mind that even if your symptoms are the same, you may not qualify for a test.
The tool is also available through an app set up by the province, which includes updates, resources and alerts.
There's also a federal online testing tool you can try if you're concerned or looking for a second – albeit online – opinion.
General health information
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control's website contains a variety of information for the public:
- How to self-isolate
- Translated content
- How it spreads
- What to do if you're sick
- Travel advice and information
- What you should know about your pets
- Food safety
- Common questions
B.C. launched a new phone line for people looking for information on COVID-19 not directly associated with medical concerns.
Examples include questions about travel, child care and business and funding support.
The line, 1-888-COVID19, is staffed 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
You can also text 604-630-0300, or fill out a contact form to receive answers through email.
International callers can use 1-604-412-0957.
There's also a line for deaf callers. Dial 711 for Service BC.
MSP and other health-related services
Need to apply for MSP? Here's how to find out if you're eligible, and how to enrol.
If your temporary permit has expired and you no longer have coverage, call Health Insurance BC at 1-800-663-710.
Looking for what's covered and what isn't? Read more here.
Looking for mental health services? The province hosts a directory on its website.
Not sure how to find an urgent or primary care centre? Here's a list.
Had a driver's test scheduled? All road tests are postponed.
Need to renew your insurance? You can now do it by phone (1-800-665-6442) or by email. Here's more information from ICBC.
Call ICBC for information on deferring payments if necessary for up to 90 days.
Wondering about potential impacts to your commute on public transit? Use the TransLink's online trip planning tool.
If you have questions, you can contact TransLink at 604-953-3333.
Ideally, parents should care for their children at home. However, there is temporary emergency funding available for child care centres to ensure that some stay open.
General questions about child care can be directed to:
- 604-630-0300 by text
- 1-888-COVID19 by phone
- or by email.
Students and student loans
Schools remain closed in B.C. for the time being.
Student loan payments in B.C. have been frozen until Sept. 30.
There's a list of answers to frequently asked questions on the province's website, and questions can be asked by phone at 1-888-COVID19.
Most post-secondary schools are offering online courses. Contact your school for more information.
The Government of Canada has paused the repayment of federal student loans, with no accrual of interest. More information is available on the National Student Loans Service Centre website.
The province announced a boost in emergency funding supports for students at B.C.'s 25 public post-secondary institutions. Students under financial pressure can contact their school's financial aid offices for more information. There's a list of email addresses under the "Backgrounders" section of this news release.
The province recently provided additional funding to improve aid for B.C. seniors. The funding covers a new matching system through the phone number 211 (and associated website), which will help match seniors in need of help to volunteers and existing services in their community.
Those services include meal and medication delivery and virtual visits, among other options.
The federal government has deferred the filing date until June 1, though it advises anyone expecting to receive benefits to try to file as early as possible.
Taxpayers can defer sending any money owed until after Aug. 31. More information here.
Some provincial taxes have been deferred: the employer health tax, provincial sales tax, carbon tax, motor fuel tax and tobacco tax.
More information on which taxes have changed or been reduced is available online, as are several contact numbers for questions on specific taxes.
The province also announced a $1.5-billion stimulus for after the pandemic is over.
On its website, the B.C. government hosts a list of resources for Canadian businesses including Small Business BC, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Here's a look at federal resources for businesses, including how to apply, where applicable.
The federal government has also proposed a wage subsidy of 75 per cent for qualifying businesses for up to three months, retroactive to March 15.
Wondering what else is being offered across the country? Here's a look at the measures coast to coast from CTVNews.ca.
This article will be updated as new initiatives are announced.