B.C. union calls for suspension of mortgage and rent payments until COVID-19 crisis ends
VANCOUVER -- A B.C. union is calling for the immediate suspension of mortgage and rent payments until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Stephanie Smith, president of the BC Government Employees' Union, said the demand is part of the union's mission to protect workers during the crisis.
"The BCGEU is urging our members and all working people to trust the science and follow public health recommendations," said Smith in a statement issued on Friday. "The federal and provincial governments could support our message by suspending mortgage and rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure working people can afford to do the right thing."
The CEO of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Evan Siddall, said in tweet that his agency will support lenders in allowing deferral of mortgage payments for up to six months for those affected by the coronavirus.
The agency will use an existing program to help homeowners who are struggling to make their mortgage payments.
But, Siddall said in a follow-up message to CTV News Vancouver, CMHC doesn't currently have "an easy way to get support to renters quickly." He added that CMHC is working with other government agencies on emergency income support measures, like employment insurance, that could help.
In Vancouver and some other Metro Vancouver municipalities, renters can get emergency help from a rent bank, a source of short-term funding for renters who risk being evicted.
Many businesses have closed, B.C.'s tourism industry is taking a huge financial hit, and many events have been cancelled in an attempt to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The BCGEU wants the federal and provincial governments to put a plan in place now to anticipate further measures that could impact workers' ability to earn wages.
"We all have a part to play in flattening the curve– workers, employers and governments," said Smith. "Our federal and provincial governments have an opportunity right now to mitigate one of the major economic pressures that force people to choose to keep working even if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are symptomatic."
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that a "significant" financial stimulus will be coming, in addition to the $1 billion already announced. The federal government has also waived the waiting period for employment insurance assistance for workers who are in quarantine.