COVID-19 and the Atlantic Canadian economy

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For many Atlantic Canadians, a main topic of concern in relation to COVID-19 is finances. Temporary work closures, changes in the stock market, the price of oil and gas, and even things like working from home can be a source of financial stress on top of an already stressful and uncertain time.

On Wednesday, March 18, Atlantic Credit Unions were proud to sponsor a webinar hosted by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) titled COVID-19: Assessing the Potential Economic Impacts for Atlantic Canada. While you can watch the full webinar (and we encourage you to do so!), we also wanted to provide a quick breakdown of some of the key takeaways from the webinar, as well as the current news.

Financial help is coming

At the time of writing, the federal government has announced they will:

  • Provide $27 billion CAD in support for Canadians and $55 billion to meet small business needs and tax deferrals.
  • Introduce the Emergency Care Benefit, which will provide money every two weeks for workers who must stay home as a result of COVID-19.
  • Introduce a COVID-19 Emergency Support Benefit for those who have lost their job as a result of the virus response and are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). This also covers those who have to care for a loved one and have their job impacted as a result.
  • Provide employees and small businesses with a 10 per cent wage subsidy for a three-month period to keep staff on payroll during economic uncertainty.
  • Supplement the GST credit in May—every adult who qualifies will receive up to $300, with $150 for every child.
  • Pause interest rates on student loans for six months.
  • Boost the Canada Child Benefit program.
  • Extend the payment deadline for those who have filed personal income tax and owe money until August 2020.

It is also expected the federal government will provide more targeted assistance in the coming months for those who are especially impacted by the virus or who are in the most vulnerable part of the population. Provincial government programs could also soon start to be announced.

What it means for business

In addition to some of the specific assistance for businesses mentioned above, there are some other things for businesses to think about. According to Craig Alexander, Partner and Chief Economist with Deloitte who spoke on the webinar, the top four things for businesses to consider are:

  1. Focus on, and take care of, your people
  2. Think about business resiliency and continuity planning
  3. Think about strategic decisions now that could benefit in the long-term—for instance, working out the logistics of working remotely now can be applied to future situations
  4. Prepare for what happens when businesses are open once again

Overall, Alexander’s take away message is this is temporary. And though the impacts are being felt now, they will not last forever. We need to take things one day at a time, while also being cautious about, and planning for, the future.

Interest rates and market fluctuations

Depending on your financial situation—whether you’re close to retirement, are carrying debt, have a mortgage, etc.—you will feel the impacts differently. The best advice? Talk to a financial advisor. They can provide the best advice for your particular situation.

Most financial institutions are willing to be flexible in times like these and will work with you to find the solution that works best for your situation. This is especially true for credit unions—we know our members and work with everyone on an individual basis to make sure you have what’s right for you.

Where to find more information

This is a situation that is changing fast. If you’re unsure of what it means for you and your finances, the best option is to reach out to an expert.

Here are few websites and resources that can also provide more information:

Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: Support for Canadians and Businesses

Health Canada COVID-19 information

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