Alexander, Social Worker with North York General Hospital

Directing patients and families to support during a difficult time

My name is Alexander Hall and I’m a social worker in North York General Hospital’s emergency department. Like a lot of you, I’ve been hearing of all the COVID pandemic-associated problems that many people, including some of my own family members, are currently facing, like being laid-off or having to stay home to care for children or sick family members.

In our emergency department, we try our best to treat people as holistically as possible by focusing not only on their physical health but also on their mental, social and emotional well-being. This got me thinking about how we can best share information with patients about what support is available.

I saw discussions in some social worker Facebook groups I’m part of about specific government programs that have been created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I thought this information would be great to share with patients and their families, so I put together a guide with information mainly from the Government of Canada’s website on what financial aid is available to them.

I’m hoping that this guide will be a good starting point for people, alleviating some of their stress and at least pointing them in the right direction of where they can turn to for support.

If you don’t know where to turn to, see below for a list of programs that are available to you:

Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness: 1-833-381-2725 (specific number for COVID-19-related cases)

  • Provides 55% of income up to $573/week for 15 weeks.
  • The one-week waiting period for support and the requirement for a medical certificate for EI Sickness benefits are currently being waived.
  • Speak with your employer’s HR department to provide you with a record of employment.

EI Regular: 1-800-206-7218 (regular number)

  • Provides 55% of your income up to $573/week.
  • Intended for those who have been laid off temporarily or permanently.
  • Submit your application as soon as possible.
  • Any required documentation can be submitted after the application has been sent.

Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

  • It will provide $2,000 per month for four months to people affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • You can apply if you have lost your job, are still working but your income is reduced due to disruptions, you are sick, you are quarantined or caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19 and missing work, or you are a working parent having to stay home to provide care for children due to loss of childcare.
  • Meant for people who are not eligible for EI Regular or sickness benefits.
  • You can apply for CERB benefits if EI benefits have run out.
  • You can apply through MyCRA or MyServiceCanada

Hydro One Relief Fund: 1-888-664-9376

  • Bill relief and payment flexibility.

Mortgage or loan repayment

Contact your personal bank or financial institution to inquire about mortgage or loan payment flexibility or deferral. The Minister of Finance has encouraged banks to show flexibility to help customers who may be financially impacted by COVID-19. Banks will likely handle this on a case-by-case basis.

Flexibility for tax payers

For individuals (other than trusts), the return filing due date will be deferred until June 1, 2020. For trusts with the taxation year ending December 31, 2020, the return filing due date will be deferred to May 1, 2020. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will allow all tax payers to defer payment of income tax amounts owing until after August 31, 2020.

The CRA still encourages individuals who expect to receive benefits under the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) and the Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC) not to delay the filing of their taxes to ensure their entitlements are properly determined. A one-time special payment through the GSTC is being proposed by early May 2020 for those that qualify. An increase in the CCB only for the 2019-20 year is also being proposed for those that qualify.