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COVID-19: A roundup of economic relief measures for British Columbians

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the British Columbia government has announced a number of emergency measures to support British Columbians affected by the pandemic. Below is a roundup. We will update this as things change or new measures are added.

Please see the federal COVID-19 support program measures here.

Updated: June 4, 2020

Income replacement for physicians who are ill with COVID-19

What is it?

  • If you are sick with COVID-19, you may be eligible for income replacement benefits if you are covered by any of the following plans:
  • Physicians’ Disability Insurance (PDI) plan 
  • IncomeProtect plan
  • Professional Expense Insurance
  • WorkSafeBC (depending on the physician’s policy)

Who’s eligible?

  • Physicians enrolled in the insurance programs listed above (depending on the physician’s policy and qualifications). See full criteria.
Income replacement for quarantined physicians

What is it?

  • Physicians’ Disability Insurance (PDI) plan provides income replacement coverage for up to 14 days of quarantine due to COVID-19.
  • A Quarantine Income Replacement benefit is offered to those not covered under PDI.

Who’s eligible?

  • Physicians in quarantine due to occupation-related COVID-19 exposure. Only PDI will offer benefits for non-work related exposure. 

New virtual care codes and billing changes for physicians

 What is it?

  • Temporary billing changes (agreed on by Doctors of BC and the BC government) to enable physicians to better utilize virtual care, reducing the need for people to attend physician offices in person.
  • New temporary fee codes to address added costs of treating patients with COVID-19 in physician offices.
  • Contact economics@doctorsofbc.ca for more information.

Business Cost Premium: telehealth fees update

 What is it?

  • The Business Cost Premium (BCP) will be temporarily expanded to apply to Telehealth fee items (phone and video). This is to ensure that the BCP is paid during the Covid-19 pandemic, given these services would have normally been provided in person in physician’s offices.
  • See full list of eligible fees here.

Who’s eligible?

  • Physicians who provide eligible services in an eligible community-based office and who are responsible for some or all of the lease, rental, or ownership costs of that office, either directly or indirectly.
  • Physicians must also be entitled to receive and retain payment for the eligible fees directly from MSP (i.e. payments assigned to Health Authorities are not eligible for the premium).

How to apply

  • The physician responsible for administration of an eligible facility (the “Facility Administrator”) must apply for a facility number by submitting the “Application for MSP Facility Number (New)” online or print form.

When is it effective?

  • May 1, 2020. 

Zoom licences: free of charge for physicians

 

 What is it?

  • Doctors Technology Office (DTO) in partnership with the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is providing 10,000 Zoom licenses for physicians free of charge for a period of one year.
  • Zoom for Healthcare is a cloud-based video conferencing software approved for the delivery of Virtual Health.
  • Physicians who already utilize Zoom may want to use this opportunity to upgrade to the Healthcare model.

Who’s eligible?

  • The licenses are available to all providers, including family physicians, specialists and nurse practitioners, whether community or health authority-based.

How to apply

B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers

 What is it?

  • A one-time tax-free $1,000 payment to people who have lost income because of COVID-19.

 Who’s eligible?

 How to apply?

COVID-19 job-protected leave 

 What is it?

  • Unpaid, job-protected leave, under B.C.’s Employment Standards Act.

Who’s eligible?

  • Employees diagnosed with COVID-19, employees in quarantine or self-isolation, employees directed not to work due to concern about exposure to the coronavirus, employees who need to provide care to a dependent, employees who are unable to return to B.C. due to travel or border restrictions.

When is it in effect?

  • Retroactive to January 27, 2020, when the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in B.C. Once it is no longer needed, this leave will be removed from the Employment Standards Act.

COVID-19 temporary layoff period extended

 What is it?

  • The B.C. government has extended the temporary layoff period from 13 weeks to 16 weeks for COVID-19 related reasons. It also allows employees to keep their job, even if they are not working during that period. Employers will be able to quickly resume operations should the public health emergency end within that time.
  • This aligns with the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit period the provides 16 weeks of financial support, allowing employees to take full advantage of those benefits.

Who’s eligible?

  • Laid off employees (given less work or no work – with the plan that the employee will return to a regular work schedule). See full criteria.

When is it effective?

  • The COVID-19 emergency temporary layoff provisions are not intended to be permanent and will be repealed when no longer needed. 

WorkSafeBC premiums relief

 What is it?

  • Payment deferral for WorkSafeBC for first-quarter 2020 premium payments.

Who’s eligible?

  • Employers who report and pay on a quarterly basis. (Employers who report annually will not be affected because they do not report payroll or pay premiums until March 2021.) 

When is it in effect? 

  • Immediately and until June 30, 2020. 

Temporary emergency child care funding

What is it?

 Who’s eligible?

  • Child care providers that agree not to charge fees to parents who have withdrawn their children temporarily and agree to reserve a space for these children once the pandemic passes.

 When is it in effect? 

  • April 1, 2020.  

Pause on student loan repayments

What is it?

  • A six-month interest-free moratorium on B.C. student loan payments.

When is it in effect?

  • March 30 to September 30, 2020.

Rent supplement payment

 What is it?

  • A rental supplement of up to $500 a month paid directly to the landlord. 
  • The BC-Temporary Supplement (BC-TRS) Program administered by BC Housing is introducing this rental supplement, while also halting evictions for non-payment of rent and freezing rent increases.

Who’s eligible?

  • Low- and moderate-income renters who are struggling to pay their rent as a result of income loss reduction due to COVID-19 but do not qualify for existing rental assistance programs. Full eligibility criteria will be available on the BC housing website soon.

 How to apply

  • Applications will be accepted in mid-April.
  • Tenants and landlords will each need to submit an application.

 When is it in effect?

  • May, June and July, 2020. 

Tax relief for businesses

 What is it?

  • The following provincial taxes have been deferred:
    • Tax Payments for Businesses
    • Employer Health Tax
  • The following have been delayed:
    • PST Budget 2020 Tax Changes
    • Carbon Tax Increase
  • The following have been reduced for 2020:
    • School property tax for commercial properties

Climate Action Tax Credit

 

 What is it?

  • A one-time enhancement to the climate action tax credit to help offset the impact of the carbon taxes paid by individuals and families during the pandemic:
    • Up to $218.00 (increased from $43.50) for you, your spouse or partner, and a child in a single parent family.
    • Up to $64.00 (increased from $12.75) for each additional child.

 Who’s eligible?

  • Moderate to low-income families that are eligible for the B.C. climate action tax credit are eligible for the one-time enhanced July 2020 payment. The one-time enhanced payment also has an increased income threshold amount.

 How to apply

  • You do not need to apply for the one-time enhanced July 2020 payment. You only need to file your income tax return for 2019 and the CRA will determine your eligibility and advise you if you’re eligible to receive the payment. See claiming the climate action tax credit for more information on completing your return.

BC Hydro: 

COVID-19 Relief Fund

 

 What is it?

  • It allows eligible residential customers who have experienced job loss to receive three months of free credit on their BC Hydro bill based on their average consumption.
  • The fund also allows eligible small businesses that needed to close due to COVID-19 to have up to three months of electricity charges waived.

 Who’s eligible?

  • Residential customers and small businesses.

 When is it in effect?

  • March 13, 2020.

 How to apply

  • For residential customers: the application is not open yet, but we expect it to be open the week of Monday, April 6. Once it opens, there is no rush to apply. Eligible customers can apply any time until June 30, 2020 to receive the credit.
  • For small businesses: The application is not open yet, but we expect it to open the week of April 13. Once it opens, there is no rush to apply. Eligible business customers can apply any time before June 30, 2020 to have their bills waived for April, May and June.

BC Hydro: 

COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program

 

 What is it?

  • Deferral of BC Hydro bill payments with no penalty.

 Who’s eligible?

  • Customers of BC Hydro.

When is it in effect?

  • March 13, 2020.

How to apply

  • Call 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376) to discuss bill payment options.

BC Hydro:

Customer Crisis Fund

 What is it?

  • Grants of up to $600 to pay hydro bills.

 Who’s eligible?

  • Residential customers facing temporary financial hardship and possible disconnection of their service due to job loss, illness, or loss of a family member.

 When is it in effect?

  • Already in effect.

 How to apply

BC Hydro rate reduction

 What is it?

  • A 1% reduction of hydro rates. The updated rate will reduce the average residential customer’s annual electricity costs by up to $16, the average commercial customers’ costs by up to $715, and the average industrial customers’ costs by up to $230,000.

 When is it effective?

  • April 1, 2020.

FortisBC hydro relief

 What is it?

  • Late payment fees for natural gas, electricity and propane bills are waived.
  • Customers won’t be disconnected from natural gas, electricity or propane– regardless of the amount owing.

Who’s eligible?

  • Homeowners, renters and small businesses. For large commercial and industrial customers, please contact your FortisBC key account manager to discuss payment arrangements.  

When is it in effect?

  • Immediately until further notice.

ICBC auto insurance relief

What is it?

  • Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) customers on a monthly Autoplan payment plan who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19 may defer payment for up to 90 days with no penalty.

 How to apply

  • Use the ICBC online resource tool to apply for a deferral, at least one business day before your next payment is due.

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If you have any questions about these measures, please contact your MD Advisor*. 

* MD Advisor refers to an MD Management Limited Financial Consultant or Investment Advisor (in Quebec), or an MD Private Investment Counsel Portfolio Manager.

Banking and credit products and services are offered by The Bank of Nova Scotia “Scotiabank.” Credit and lending products are subject to credit approval by Scotiabank.