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Financial help for freelancers

Published on: April 03, 2020

Many freelance editors have seen their business decline or dry up completely due to the effects of COVID-19 on their clients. There is some financial help available for self-employed people who are struggling to get through this period. Things are changing quickly, but this is a snapshot of federal programs that are currently available to freelancers.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): The Government of Canada will provide a taxable benefit (meaning it will be included in your taxable income for the year) of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to:

  • workers who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support
  • workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures
  • workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work
  • wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance

To apply for this assistance, follow the instructions here. You can get set up on My Account on the CRA website or apply using an automated phone service. Access to the fund should begin on April 6. Canadians should begin to receive their CERB payments within 3–10 days of application. The CERB will be paid every four weeks and be available from March 15 until October 3, 2020. You need to reconfirm your eligibility every four weeks.

Income tax: For individuals, the tax return filing due date is now June 1, 2020. BUT, if you are expecting to receive benefits (like the Canada Child Benefit or the GST credit) you won't get it until you file, so you might want to do it sooner.

Instalments for 2020 taxes can be deferred until after August 31, 2020 without incurring interest or penalties.

Benefits for low-income households: Both the Canada Child Benefit and the GST credit have been increased for those who qualify. You will get an extra $300 per child for the CCB, and a one-time payment for low-income families of around $400 (for singles) to $600 (for couples) will be paid in May through the GST credit.

GST/HST: Both businesses and self-employed people have until June 30 to pay GST/HST that would normally be due before that time. The deferral applies to GST/HST remittances for monthly filers for the February, March and April 2020 reporting periods; for quarterly filers, for the January 1 through March 31, 2020 reporting period; and for annual filers, for their 2019 payment and instalments for 2020 due before June 30. Deferring payments now will mean that you have more to pay during the second half of the year.

Canada Student Loans: If you are paying off a student loan, the federal government is placing a six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans. No payment will be required and interest will not accrue during this time. You do not need to apply for the repayment pause.

Provincial and territorial governments: Some provinces have introduced programs that may offer additional help to freelancers. Policies are being created and updated quickly, so check these websites to find out what is happening in your province or territory:

British Columbia
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Newfoundland and Labrador
Northwest Territories

Private businesses:

Banks are working on a case-by-case basis with clients who are unable to make mortgage payments, and may also provide some relief on other debt types. Contact your bank directly to see how they can help.

Landlords are in some cases being flexible about late payment of rent, or paying less rent until government assistance kicks in. If you can't cover your rent, try asking your landlord for some leeway.

Charities and community groups:

Food banks, shelters, and other charities are offering support to those who need it. Mental health hotlines are also operating and can help with increased anxiety, depression, and other issues you may be facing. Check your local services to find out what's available in your area.

Some communities have started "caremongering" groups online. These groups allow locals to ask for assistance with picking up medications or groceries, caring for children of essential workers, emergency repairs in the home, and other services. Try searching online for "caremongering" plus your area.