Improving Federal Emergency Economic Measures

This brief was submitted to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to support the Government of Canada’s rapidly evolving response to COVID-19’s economic implications.

I participated in an online exchange from March 19 – 20, 2020 with a group of policy experts who informed this brief. The group included Jennifer Robson, John Stapleton, Laurell Ritchie, Michael Mendelson, David MacDonald, Sunil Johal, Elizabeth MacIsaac, Liz Mulholland, Garima Talwar Kapoor, Andrew Jackson, Colette Murphy, Pedro Barata, and John Myles.

Here are the highlights.

Income Supports: expedite payments and maximize reach by waiving eligibility requirements and simplifying application; flow funds through the fastest income transfer vehicle (CRA rather than EI); communicate, communicate, communicate.

Housing Supports: Use the April 1 trigger date for implementation of the National Housing Strategy to increase and front-end load federal assistance to individuals, community services and even hotels providing emergency shelter to the sick and under-housed.

Debt-related supports: Minimize the unavoidable surge in indebtedness and high-cost credit by improving community access to tax-filing clinics and financial services; expand mechanisms and infrastructure for community-based low-cost credit; limit interest rates on payday loans.

Nonprofit supports: Flow funds/grants immediately to the sector of the economy that will be doing the heavy lifting for the food and shelter needs of our most vulnerable neighbours; increase lines of access to low-cost credit; support and build on existing community-response infrastructure for financial advice and supports; help communicate the need to marshal volunteers, and provide health/safety/protective gear to community foot-soldiers.

Our shared goal is to minimize risk and maximize speed and effectiveness of the actions we’re taking today, as individuals and collectively through our communities and governments.

We’ll update this document as more information about measures for individuals and households are announced.