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.

Employment-related contacts

B.C. is offering a one-time payment of $1,000 for people who lost income. This is available only to workers impacted by COVID-19 in the province, and they must meet the eligibility requirements for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. 

Applications can be submitted online any time, or by phone as of May 4.

Apply for the new federal emergency response benefit here or employment insurance here.

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

Are you a student or recent post-secondary graduate? See the students section below for more.
 

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.

Anyone looking to apply for the supplement can do so online as of April 9.

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.

 

Utility bills

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 now available online for homeowners and renters. 

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.

 

Coronavirus testing

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:

 

Non-medical information

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

The mental health ministry announced an additional $5 million was being set aside for virtual programs as well. Here's more on the agencies involved

Not sure how to find an urgent or primary care centre? Here's a list

 

Transportation

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.

 

Child care

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.

Essential services workers who have children up to five years of age are asked to fill out a form online

General questions about child care can be directed to:

  • 604-630-0300 by text
  • 1-888-COVID19 by phone
  • or by email.
     

 

Special needs 

The Ministry of Children and Family Development is establishing an Emergency Relief Support Fund for the families and caregivers of children and youth with special needs.

Eligible families will receive a direct payment of $225 a month for April, May and June. 

 

Fleeing violence

BC Housing is among the agencies working to find safe spaces for women and children fleeing violence.

Those in need of help can contact VictimLinkBC at 1-800-563-0808 or email help@bc211.ca. 

 

Students and student loans

Schools remain closed in B.C. for the time being, though some school districts have put online learning plans in place.

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.

Also recently promised is a new Canada Student Service Grant, which could see recipients getting up to $5,000 toward their fall tuition.

The grant is for students who "choose to do national service and serve their communities."

The federal government says details will be posted on its "I Want to Help" platform in the coming weeks.

Ottawa also passed the Canada Emergency Student Benefit. Eligible post-secondary students and recent graduates whose job prospects have been impacted by COVID-19 will get $1,250 a month, from May to August. 

Those with a disability, or who are caring for someone else, can get as much as $2,000 a month.

Students are able to apply as of Friday, May 15, the prime minister said.

Applications can be filed online through the Canada Revenue Agency, or by phone. Here's more information

However, the federal government said the benefit will only go to those who are able to work if they are looking for work. Read more on what that means.

And the feds committed $80 million to the Student Work Placement program. Here's more on eligibility and how to find a placement

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

 

Seniors' services

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

And the federal government announced May 12 that seniors will be sent a one-time payment of up to $500

Those eligible for the Old Age Security pension will get $300, and additional $200 will go to seniors who qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

The federal government estimates about 6.7 million are eligible for OAS and 2.2 for GIS.

The payment is tax-free.
 

Income tax

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.

 

Business resources

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 also offers the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy of 75 per cent for qualifying businesses, retroactive to March 15. Initially, the subsidy was for three months, but in May, the prime minister extended it until the end of August.

And a recent change to the Canada Summer Jobs program means businesses that hire summer students can apply for a subsidy of up to 100 per cent of the provincial or territorial hourly minimum wage. 

A Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance fund was also established to help small businesses struggling to pay the bills. The program offers loans to property owners so they can reduce rent owned by small business tenants and meet operating expenses on their properties.

Eligible owners must offer at least a 75 per cent discount on rent for April, May and June. Applications can be submitted online

 

Out-of-province

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.