How Do I Apply For the CECRA For Small Businesses?

A picture of a store opening to denote a business being able to stay open due to their landlord applying for the CECRA program to help reduce their rent.

How do I apply for the CECRA for small businesses? What is the CECRA program? The Canadian government just announced more emergency measures for small businesses to help weather Covid-19. However, this time the focus is on helping commercial landlords. Let’s explain this new program.

How Do I Apply For the CECRA – What is it?

CECRA stands for Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for small businesses. The goal of the program is to provide rental relief for small businesses. The government achieves this by providing forgivable loans to commercial landlords as an incentive to lower rents for their tenants.

How Do I Apply For The CECRA – How Does it Work?

First, the commercial landlord goes into an agreement with their tenant(s) to reduce their rent to 25% of normal rate for three months (April 2020 , May 2020, June 2020). The landlord will then take a loan from the Government of Canada to cover the other 75% for this time frame. If the landlord and tenant meet the program’s criteria, the landlord can have 2/3 of his/her loan forgiven. What does this mean in layman’s terms?

Suppose a landlord had a tenant who was paying $20,000 in rent each month. If the landlord wanted to be part of this program, they would go into an agreement to reduce their rent by 75% for April, May and June. This means the tenant would only pay $5000 per month for these three months. The landlord would then take a loan for $15000 per month for the three months from the government or $45000 in total. The landlord then can potentially have $10000 per month of the loan forgiven or $30000.

So what does this mean? it means that landlord will receive 75% of the required rent for these 3 months instead of 100%. The tenant will only pay 25% of their rent for same period. This means the landlord will incur a 25% loss in rent this time frame. But this amount is covered by the loan in which they pay back. Why would landlords choose to do this?

What is the Incentive for Landlords?

The government is banking on 3 reasons that landlords will apply for the programs. Here is a summary of the reasons from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation whom the government is using to administer this program.

  1. There is an incentive of getting a government loan where potentially 2/3 of it could be forgiven.
  2. The landlord is guaranteed at least 50% of your rent for the months of April, May, and June. This is huge considering the alternative could be receiving NOTHING in rent if businesses can’t afford to pay.
  3. Finally, eviction and finding new tenants can be an expensive and time consuming process that could be very costly. So, perhaps landlords can prevent this altogether.

How Can I Apply For The CECRA Program?

You will need to go to the CMHC website. However, the application portal for this program will not be open until Monday May 25, 2020 at 8:00 am eastern time. And then the government will take a staggered approach for applying due to the expected high volume. Here’s the schedule from the the CMHC website below:

NOTE: Once registered, the portal will be available 24/7 for applicants to input data and upload documents.

DayWho should register?
MondayProperty owners who are located in Atlantic Canada, BC, Alberta and Quebec, with up to 10 tenants who are eligible for the program
TuesdayProperty owners who are located in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the Territories, with up to 10 tenants who are eligible for the program
WednesdayAll other property owners in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the Territories
ThursdayAll other property owners in Atlantic Canada, BC, Alberta and Quebec
FridayAll

What Information Will I Need to Apply For the CECRA Program?

There are a few pieces of information you will need to give to apply for the program. Here are a list below from the the CMHC website:

Attestations

  • Tenant or Sub-tenant’s Attestation (sample PDF):
    Property owners must have each of their eligible commercial small business tenants and/or subtenants sign an attestation. The Tenants are responsible for attesting to their eligibility with the program requirements. 
  • Property Owner’s Attestation (sample PDF):
    Property owners must sign an attestation. This confirms the information relating to the property owner and the property provided in the application is correct. And it attest to their eligibility with the program requirements.

Agreements

  • Rent Reduction Agreement (sample PDF): All application documents will be accessible on May 25, 2020.
    Property owners must enter into a legally binding rent reduction agreement with each impacted tenant. And confirm the rent reduction in accordance with the program terms and conditions.  This agreement is conditional upon final approval of the application for CECRA for small businesses.
  • Forgivable Loan Agreement (sample PDF):
    Property owners must agree to the terms and conditions in the application and outlined in the forgivable loan agreement.

You’ll also need to provide the following information:

Property owner information

  • Property information includes: property address, property type, property tax statement, latest rent roll for each property and the number of commercial units
  • Applicant information includes: banking information, property owner contact information, co-ownership information and contact details for co-owners

Tenant information

  • Tenant information includes: tenant contact information, registered business name, lease area and the monthly gross rent for the period of April, May and June 2020

Conclusion

The CECRA program is a very detailed program. If you think you might want to apply, please go to the CMHC website and read it carefully. However, the amount of information provided could be overwhelming. Hopefully this summary helps you in understanding the program better. Which is important because this is a big decision to make and the stakes are high. Stay safe everyone.

Additional Support for Seniors During Covid-19

A picture of senior to denote the governments measures to provide additional support for seniors during covid-19

On May 12, 2020, the Canadian Government announced additional support for seniors during covid-19 to help them offset the increased cost of living resulting from the pandemic. Also announced was measures to help seniors deal with isolation and improve their quality of life. Finally, there was an extension of payments and allowances for seniors. Let’s take a look at each one of these new supports one by one.

Additional Support for Seniors During Covid-19, One Time Tax free Payment

The prime minister announced  a one time tax-free payment of $300 for seniors eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, with an additional $200 for seniors eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). This would give a total of $500 to individuals who are eligible to receive both the OAS and the GIS. The goal is to help seniors cover increased costs caused by the pandemic.

Additional Support for Seniors During Covid-19, Additional Funding to New Horizons for Seniors Program

The Government also announced that it is investing an additional $20 million dollars into the New Horizons for Seniors Program. The is to help support organizations that offer community based projects that help reduce isolation, improve the quality of life for seniors, and help them maintain a social support network.

Additional Support for Seniors During Covid-19, Extension of Allowance Payments

The government is temporarily extending seniors’ GIS and Allowance payments even if their 2019 income information has not been assessed. This will ensure that the most vulnerable seniors continue to receive their benefits. Also, seniors are encouraged to submit their 2019 income information as soon as possible and no later than by October 1, 2020. By doing so, they will avoid an interruption of benefits.

Conclusion

The government is trying to help the most vulnerable people affected by this pandemic and many seniors definitely fall into this category. The latest measures announced are a way to address this and hopefully many seniors can apply and will be helped by this. Even if the amounts are small, it is all a help. As the old saying goes, every little bit helps.

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Canada Emergency Student Benefit, What is it?

A picture of a student at university to denote that students will need the Canada Emergency Student Benefit program.

Wondering what the Canada Emergency Student Benefit is? It is an important question to answer if you are a student. As a student, you’re likely wondering how you can earn money this summer during this pandemic. On April 22, 2020, the government outlined a program to help these students in this situation.

What is the Canada Emergency Student Benefit Program?

It is a relief program proposed by the government of Canada to help post-secondary students who aren’t able to find full-time employment or cannot work due to COVID-19. Also, if they are not eligible to receive either Employment Insurance benefits (EI) or the Canada Emergency Response benefits (CERB). Many post-secondary students are not eligible for either of these programs as they have not worked enough to qualify.

How Much Do You Get and For How Long?

Students who qualify would receive $1250 per month for up to 4 months (May 2020 to August 2020). If the student has a disability or has dependents, they can receive an additional $750 per month.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit Program, Who is Eligible?

Here are the details from the Government of Canada’s website below:

  • Students who are enrolled in a post-secondary education program leading to a degree, diploma, or certificate.
  • Students who ended their studies or graduated no earlier than December 2019.
  • High-school graduates who have applied for and will be joining post-secondary programs in the coming months.
  • Canadian students studying abroad meeting one of the above criteria.

When Can I Apply? Update!

You can apply for the program starting on May 15, 2020 at 6 am Eastern time. For more details on how to apply and inputting an online application please go to the Government of Canada’s website.

When Will I Get Paid?

The most important question of course! The Government of Canada’s website says that if CRA has your direct deposit information, your payment will take 3 business days. If not, then a cheque will take about 10 business days.

Conclusion

The Canada Emergency Student Benefits Program is a way to help the many students who cannot find employment. It helps close the gap of students who don’t qualify for Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefits Program. Hopefully the program will be up and running shortly. When we get more details, we will update this page with further information.

BMO Mastercard Cashback Changes – Is it Worth it?

A picture of a mastercard to highlight BMO mastercard cashback changes.

BMO Mastercard cashback changes coming May 2020! This is the announcement that many cardholders received in their email recently. At first glance the changes look exciting and potentially a money saver for customers. However, let’s take a deeper look at these changes and see if this is really so.

BMO Mastercard Cashback Changes

Currently you can earn 1% cashback on all purchases regardless if it is a one time purchase or a recurring purchase such as a monthly bill payment. Also, the purchase has to be at least $50.00 before you get the 1% cashback.

However starting May 1, 2020, you can start earning 3% cashback on grocery purchases, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on other purchases. For one time purchases the minimum purchase is only $1.00. The minimum purchase for recurring bill payments is $25.00. Also, you do not have to wait until the end of the year to redeem your cashback. You can do it immediately by having it deposited into a chequing or savings account or you use it as a credit on a monthly statement.

This sounds great! It looks like you’lll be getting more cashback that you can use sooner. Sounds like a win win situation. However, there is a “but”; there’s always a “but”.

BMO Mastercard Cashback Changes, The Fine Print!

Yes, there is always the fine print and there a few things with this card that you should know about. For instance, there is a $500.00 monthly limit on getting 3% cashback. Any grocery purchases over $500.00, you will still only get 0.5% cashback. Also, you would have to make sure that the grocery stores you go to are deemed grocery stores by BMO.

There is also a $500.00 monthly limit on getting 1% on recurring purchases bill payments. Any recurring purchase amount that is over $500.00, you only get 0.5% cashback.

Conclusion, Is it Worth it?

It depends on how much you spend on your credit card. For example, suppose you spent $500 on groceries, $500 on recurring bill payments, and $2000.00 on other purchases. Based on the new changes, you would receive $30.00 cash back. Do you know how much you would receive in cashback for same amount currently? You would also get $30.00! What does this mean?

It means that if you are putting more than $3000.00 each month on your card, then the changes do not benefit you as you would actually be getting less cash back. However, if you are spending at least $500 in groceries and at least $500 in bill payments but are putting less than $3000 per month on the card, then the changes are helpful to you, as you’ll get more in cashback.

So is the BMO MasterCard cash back changes worth it? If you do not put a lot on your credit card then potentially yes! However, if you charge a lot on your card each month then potentially it is not. This means that you as the consumer have to know your spending habits and read the fine print on any credit card you might want. Because with so many things in life, there’s always a catch!

Applying For EI Benefits, 5 Things You Should Know

Stressed out person applying for EI Benefits

Applying for EI benefits is often a stressful experience.  The process is not user friendly.  First, you have to go to the government website and look for the EI application.  Once you have found it, you then have the arduous process of going through it, which can take hours.  Also, calling the 1-800 number for help may take even more hours! (This is understandable right now, during the coronavirus crisis. The number of EI claims is shocking! At last count, there were 2.2 million new EI claims in Canada.)

 However, if you have lost your job and have no other money coming in, you need to apply for Employment Insurance.  So, what are some things that you need to know when you are applying for EI benefits?  Here are 5 things that you need to know:

Applying for EI Benefits: Apply Immediately (Even Without a Record of Employment)

Surprisingly, many do not apply for EI right away, thinking that they need to wait for their record of employment.  They might think that it’s pointless to apply without their ROE.  This is 100% wrong.  You should apply for EI benefits right after you finish your last day of work, period.  Why?  First, you only have 4 weeks from your last work day to apply.  If you do not, you could get less benefits than you are entitled to.

 Second, most records of employment are automatically sent to EI by your employer.  So even if you haven’t received one yet, it’s most likely that the government has it already.

Third, the government can make a temporary record of employment based on your application and set up your EI claim using that.  Once the actual record of employment comes in, your application can be recalculated. 

Applying for EI: More Details are Better

For some reason, many people don’t want to describe the reasons why they are no longer working.  Maybe it’s because they are shy or perhaps, they do not want to seem to complain about their situation.    However, it is extremely important to give full details on why you are no longer working, especially if you quit or were dismissed.  More is better!  Think about it this way: whoever is going to look at your application has no idea of the situation at all.  For them, it’s like looking at a blank canvas.  You need to create a detailed picture or painting.  The more details you can provide, the clearer the picture is.  This helps the benefits officer make a better decision on your application.

Applying for EI: Dismissal is Not Actually Bad

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about EI.  Most people think if you get dismissed or fired from your job that you automatically won’t get EI.  Employers will even tell employees that it’s better for you to quit than to get fired.  This is absolutely not true!  Why?  Because if your employer dismisses you, the onus is on the employer to prove misconduct on the part of the employee in order to deny their EI benefits.  A lot of EI adjudicators use the Black’s Dictionary of misconduct to define whether someone has done something that is willful and of evil intent. 

For example, if your employer dismissed you because you were not good at your job that is not misconduct.  Even if you were late for work, or were argumentative etc., the employer would have to show that they addressed the issue.  For example, were there warnings, conversations and the like?   Even, for things like accusing an employee of theft, the responsibility is on the employer to show or prove that this happened.  For example, were their witnesses?  Is there video?  Did they call the police and file a police report? 

Also, if an employee was paid severance by their employer, this shows that there wasn’t misconduct The thinking behind this is why would you pay additional money to someone who committed misconduct?  As you can see, with dismissal the pressure is on the employer to prove misconduct, which is not easy to do.

It’s a Lot Harder to Get EI Benefits if You Quit

Many people do not realize this, but it is really hard to get EI benefits if you quit.  Unfortunately, people think that it’s better than getting dismissed or fired.  This is false, because f you quit all the pressure is on you to prove that you had “just cause” in quitting.  What does this mean?  It means that you had no other choice.

For example, suppose you were being harassed at work by a co-worker.  You couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to quit.  However, for EI purposes you would have to exhaust your alternatives first.  Did you talk to a manager about the harassment?  Had you gone to your union about the harassment?  Did you go to Human Resources?  Did you go to Labour Standards or Human Rights?  If you did and there was still no real change in your situation then you would have a chance to get EI benefits. 

A tool that can help you if you are in this position of either thinking of quitting your job or you’ve already done so is the EI Digest.   This document lays out how different EI issues are looked at. It can give you some insight on what information you would need to provide on your EI application.

If Rejected, Appeal

It is always tough to get a rejection letter, but especially when it comes to EI benefits.  As a result, many people give up and move on.  However, in a lot of cases you should appeal the decision.  You might feel intimidated because when you appeal, it says there will be an appeal hearing with a 3-person tribunal (called a board of referees). You have the option to be present for it.  It is like going to court and who wants to go to court?  However, there is a step that’s not mentioned that might help you if you write an appeal letter on why you feel the decision made was incorrect.

Before an appeal goes to the board of referees, it goes to the appeal department.  This department is made of experienced adjudicators who will look at the application again. They see if the original decision made was correct. And they also decide if they could possibly allow the claim based on information the client has provided on the application and any new information in their appeal letter.

 The advantage of this is that you have a more experienced adjudicator looking at your EI claim with even more information.  This gives you a better chance at being approved.  Also, sometimes they might find another way for you to qualify for EI benefits. For example the information you provided might qualify you for sickness benefits, rather than regular Employment Insurance.  So, it doesn’t hurt to try to appeal a decision if you are rejected.

Conclusion

Applying for EI benefits is hard and can be emotionally draining.  However, if you keep the above points in mind, hopefully the process will be a bit easier   Applying for any government benefit seems intimidating but the more you know about a program, the easier it is to navigate through it.  Hopefully, this results in a favourable outcome for you.

How to Have Your Dream Vacation on the Cheap?

The colosseum in Rome to show a dream vacation location

How to have a dream vacation on the cheap? The obvious answer is that you don’t! Sure there are those all inclusive deals you see advertise all the time but to go somewhere truly exotic, historical or cultured it is going to be expensive. So, do I find a cheaper location to go to? Perhaps, but there are ways to save that can help you still have that dream vacation that you have always wanted. Here are three tips to help you below.

Travel Off Season, on Your Dream Vacation!

This one seems obvious but you would be surprised how many people do not do it. However, that has a big cost and it could be the difference between having a dream vacation or not. For example, I went to Tuscany in November which is low season for Italy. The weather was cooler and there was a bit of rain. However, the savings was huge! The loft apartment my wife and I stayed was 50 Euros a night. In high season which is the summer months, the same place was 250 Euros a night. Just think of the savings! One week(seven nights) in Tuscany costed me 350 Euros as oppose to 1750 Euros in high season. And the place I stayed at was awesome as it was overlooking an olive grove in the Tuscan countryside. Travelling off season can save you a ton of money!

Cook Your Own Meals and Save!

I know a lot of people will say, “who wants to cook their meals while they are on their dream vacation?” I get that but to eat out everyday for every meal is really expensive! For example, if my wife and I ate out every meal for a week in Europe and tried to find cheap places to eat, we will still be paying upwards of 100 Euros a night at the very least. However, if our accommodation had a kitchenette or stove, and we cooked our own meals than we will be paying around 100 Euros a week. That’s a massive savings! Also, if you want go out for a romantic meal out, you can splurge on it and still come out ahead and you will have that special memory to boot. It’s a win, win!

Look for Free or Low Cost Activities

This seems impossible and at first look you are right because all the attractions at your dream location usually have costs. However, there are free or low costs options out there which can lower you expenses significantly. For example, when my wife and I were in London a while ago, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that all the major museums in London are for free! These were not second rate museums, but some of the best the world has to offer. It was an incredible experience and it was all free.

Avoid Tourists Traps

It is easier said than done but the reality is that any store, restaurant, business, or shop near an attraction is a tourist trap and you will pay a lot more then you should. So, you need to do some research and venture away from these locations and you will save yourself money. For example, when my wife and I were in London, we were looking to buy a cheap throw away phone for our trip. We were staying in a tourist area and the store that was selling phones were charging 40 pounds. I decided to do some research and found a store two miles away. The store had the same phone for five pounds! Avoiding the tourist traps as much as you can will be a big savings.

Conclusion, Your Dream Vacation is possible!

Yes your dream vacation is possible. With a little planning and finding a few alternatives here and there, you can do it! Yes, there are a few sacrifices you might have to make to get there, being going off season, cooking your own meals, looking for free or low cost options and avoiding tourist traps. But the benefits far out weigh the costs. So start planning that dream vacation and have memories that will last a life time. Save travels my friends!

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Is Online Banking Safe to Use?

doing online banking on a computer

Is online banking safe to use? It is an interesting question as some love using online banking while others fear it. And it is easy to see why because we live in a time where we can literally purchase everything online. However, with that comes skyrocketing cyber crime which seems to be getting worse by the day. Hence the dilemma.

The Fears of Online Banking

These fears can be summed up in three areas:

  1. The fear of my bank account being hacked and compromised resulting in loss of money.
  2. Computer or system glitches preventing me from accessing my account.
  3. Human error resulting in moving money to the wrong location or source resulting in loss of funds.

Are These Online Banking Fears Founded?

In a word, no. Online banking has come along way and here are three reasons why these fears are unfounded:

  1. Security-Online banking systems have sophisticated security software to protect the user from hacking. For example my bank uses Trusteer Rapport which is security software developed by IBM. Also, banks have a guarantee to users to compensate them for any losses due to their account being compromised. Here’s an online guarantee from my bank, “We will fully reimburse you in the unlikely event that you suffer direct financial losses due to unauthorized activity in your accounts through Digital Banking Services provided you have met your security responsibilities.”
  2. Systems glitches are pretty rare. I have been using online banking for a long time cannot remember the last problem there was. There could be the rare time that the system is down for maintenance but the website usually has a warning if this is the case.
  3. Extra steps implemented to prevent human error. When you do any transaction, there is usually a step that asks you to confirm a transaction or asks if you are sure. This gives you the opportunity to double check. If you do make an error, who can call the bank’s call centre or email their help desk to get help to reverse the transaction.

Benefits of Online Banking

Here are two benefits below:

  1. Time. This one is obvious! What is faster? Driving to your bank to pay a bill or apply for a credit card or turning on your computer going to your bank’s website and doing it all there? You save lots of time!
  2. Convenience. Imagine, you can pay your bills, pay your taxes, invest, and apply for a loan at once. If you did it the old way, you would have to line up at a bank, see multiple people, and potentially go to other places to pay for your bills or invest. With online banking, you can do it all in the comfort of your home.

Conclusion

Should I use online banking? If you value time and convenience than the answer is a resounding yes! The benefits definitely outweighs the risks and if something does go wrong, you bank will compensate you for any losses. It’s a win win situation which is a rarity in our world today. So, why not give it a try?

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