B.C. union calls for mortgage, rent payments to be put on hold during COVID-19 pandemic
'Make sure working people can afford to do the right thing,' says union president
The B.C. Government and Services' Union is calling for federal and provincial governments to immediately pause all mortgage and rent payments until the COVID-19 crisis is over.
The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a "pandemic" and public health officials are recommending social distancing, including 14 days of self-isolation for anyone who has travelled abroad.
- Stay informed by joining our CBC Vancouver Facebook group on coronavirus.
The union, which has nearly 80,000 members across the province, says protections for workers needs to be a central part of the government response.
"Our federal and provincial governments have an opportunity right now to mitigate one of the major economic pressures that force people to choose to keep working even if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are symptomatic," said Stephanie Smith, president of the union, in a statement.
Suspending rent and mortgage payments would "make sure working people can afford to do the right thing," she said.
Banks in countries like Italy, France and the United Kingdom have started offering a degree of leniency to borrowers struggling to make their mortgage payments after mandatory quarantines came into effect.
The CEO of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Evan Siddall, wrote on Twitter that the agency will support lenders in helping Canadians defer payments for up to six months where necessary.
The first thing we do is help Canadians. As we have done before, <a href="https://twitter.com/CMHC_ca?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CMHC_ca</a> will support lenders in allowing deferral of mortgage payments for up to six months for those impacted by <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/coronavirus?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#coronavirus</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID2019?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID2019</a> . <a href="https://t.co/2cfdWRnKvJ">https://t.co/2cfdWRnKvJ</a>—@ewsiddall
For renters in the City of Vancouver and some other parts the province, it's possible to get emergency help for rent payments and one-time interest-free loans through programs like the Vancouver Rent Bank.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week a $1-billion package to help Canadians cope with the COVID-19 outbreak, with half of the money going to the provinces and territories.
The federal government has also waived the one-week waiting period for employment insurance to assist workers and businesses affected by the novel coronavirus, and is exploring options for Canadians who are not eligible for EI sickness benefits.
If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at email@example.com.