Last week the Government of Canada announced a multi-pronged approach to stabilize the economy, boost consumer confidence, and provide help to Canadians as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. These new measures were rolled out to complement actions taken in the previous week by the Bank of Canada, the Department of Finance and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI).
Since the emergence of COVID-19, CREA has been in ongoing discussions with government departments and agencies. We have had meaningful conversations about the unique challenges facing REALTORS® and the potentially devastating outcomes of any interruptions to their day-to-day business.
We wrote to the Minister of Finance, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the Minister of Employment and Social Development to ensure REALTORS® are eligible for emergency financial aid.
The outcome of these efforts is reflected in the actions taken by the government over the last two weeks:
- Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a taxable benefit providing $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB is a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.
The CERB covers Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures. The CERB applies to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.
Additionally, workers who are still employed, but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19, also qualify for the CERB. This would help businesses keep their employees as they navigate these difficult times, while ensuring they preserve the ability to quickly resume operations as soon as it becomes possible.
The portal for accessing the CERB will be available in early April. Canadians will begin to receive their CERB payments within 10 days of application. The CERB will be paid every four weeks and be available from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020.
As defined by the Bill, workers are eligible if:
- They are a resident in Canada who, for 2019 or in the 12-month period preceding the day on which they make an application for CREB, had a total income of at least $5,000;
- Whether employed or self-employed, they cease working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period in respect of which they apply;
- They do not receive, in respect of the consecutive days on which they have ceased working, income from employment or self-employment, benefits, allowances, or any other income prescribed by the regulation.
- The Bank of Canada lowered its target for the overnight rate by 50 basis points to 0.75% as a proactive measure taken to counter negative shocks to Canada’s economy.
- The Bank of Canada will be purchasing about $500 million in mortgage bonds per week.
- The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will acquire up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools.
- A temporary wage subsidy equal to 10% of remuneration, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer, for small businesses for three months.
- Deferred payment for businesses of any income tax amounts that become owing between now and September 2020, until after August 31, 2020.
The House of Commons was recalled on Tuesday at noon to pass the emergency economic measures. Bill C-13, An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19, was approved by both the House and Senate, before receiving royal assent on Wednesday.
OSFI has suspended all consultations on regulatory matters, including on the proposed new benchmark rate for the minimum qualifying rate on uninsured mortgages. The government has also suspended implementing the new benchmark rate for the minimum qualifying rate on insured mortgages until further notice.
Canada’s six largest banks announced financial relief for Canadians impacted by the economic consequences of COVID-19, including up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages and the opportunity for relief on other credit products.
While all the details of the various programs announced are not yet available, the government is mobilizing their resources to get money in the pockets of Canadians.
CREA is monitoring the implementation of these programs. The Government Relations team is also focused on the needs of small businesses, beyond those measures already announced. We are researching programs implemented in other jurisdictions in order to find innovative solutions that might be relevant to our industry. We have been keeping in close contact with GR professionals across the country, as alignment and coordination will be key as we move forward. We will continue to advocate on behalf of REALTORS®.
Please monitor your email inbox for updates from CREA.