How do I get my $500? Your Quebec budget questions answered
Also, what's in there (or not) to help with gas prices, housing and more
On Tuesday, Quebec Premier François Legault's CAQ government unveiled its fourth budget — the final one before the fall election.
The 470-page behemoth is stuffed with facts and figures. But as the cost of rent, groceries and gas continues to climb in the province, the big question for many is: what's in it for me?
Here's a breakdown of the budget highlights, starting with the big news: a $500 payout for roughly 6.4 million people.
How will this $500 handout work?
The government announced a one-time, lump-sum payment for every Quebecer who makes $100,000 or less.
If you qualify, you'll receive the $500 automatically, as long as you file your tax return for 2021. If your income is $100,000 or less, you'll get the full $500, no questions asked.
If you make less than $105,000, then you're in a buffer zone. You'll still get some money but not the entire $500.
If you make more than $105,000, though, you're not eligible.
This is per person, not by household, so a couple that each makes under $100,000 would get $1,000 between them.
However, if you owe money to the government come tax season, the $500 may used to pay down what you owe. (Sorry, self-employed workers.)
Of course, if you don't file your taxes this year, you won't see any of it. That means Quebec's most vulnerable, such as those experiencing homelessness, might not get their share of the money.
And be careful not to fall for fakes: The CAQ tweeted out a warning Tuesday night that scam artists were already targetting Quebecers, by sending fraudulent texts that make it look like people need to click a link to get their $500 payments.
If you get this text, it's a scam. Do not click this link.
🚨Un message texte frauduleux circule présentement disant qu’un virement Interac de 500,00 $ vous a été envoyé de notre part. Il s’agit d’une fraude. <br><br>Veuillez ne pas cliquer sur le lien‼ <a href="https://t.co/PRDYdjnSyD">pic.twitter.com/PRDYdjnSyD</a>—@coalitionavenir
I can't afford to buy a home, and my rent is high. Is there anything to help me out?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: there is money to create affordable housing units and subsidize rent, but it falls far short of what housing groups say the province needs.
For example, the budget has set aside $100 million to build an additional 1,000 affordable housing units over five years across the province.
But the Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ) said that the province needs 13,400 more affordable housing units — over 13 times what the government has announced. (The UMQ also asked for 4,500 more social housing units.)
There's also money for rent subsidies, a total of $69 million over the next five years, but it's not going to be available to most Quebecers. The program is targeted at those in crisis, such as people experiencing homelessness or women fleeing domestic violence.
Here's how the subsidy works: first, you'd need to apply to your local municipal housing bureau. If you're accepted, you would only have to pay 25 per cent of your household income in rent. The government would cover the difference between that amount and whatever your rent actually is, for up to five years.
This program isn't new. Nearly 42,000 of these subsidized households already exist.The 2022-23 budget only provides subsidies to another 2,200 households across the province.
As for buying property, the budget notes that after peaking in 2021, access to home ownership will remain restricted, due to high prices and an increase in interest rates. There's nothing in the budget to address that, however.
What about the price of gas? What if I want to switch to an electric vehicle?
If you were hoping to pay less at the pump, you're going to be disappointed: there's no cuts to the province's gas tax.
If you want to skip gas entirely and buy an electric vehicle, the province is still offering a rebate, but it's lower than it was before.
For example, you used to get $8,000 back on a new electric vehicle. As of April 1, that's going down to $7,000.
It's worse for new plug-in hybrid vehicles: you used to get $8,000 back, but now, it's only $5,000.
The government said it lowered the rebate because electric cars, which are increasingly popular, are cheaper now than they used to be.
If you take public transit, there isn't much in there for you, either. There's no rebate for the cost of a monthly pass, for example.
The province and federal governments are jointly pumping in another $393 million to support public transit agencies across the province as they recover from the pandemic through next year, but it's unclear if any savings will be passed on to users.
Are we finally fixing the health care system?
When it comes to the health care system generally, there isn't a lot of detail in the budget.
That's because an overhaul of the system is coming, but it's only going to be announced by the Health Ministry later, so where this money is going is a bit of a mystery for now.
For context, there needs to be an annual spending increase of about five per cent just to maintain the health system's current level of service. The government is investing 6.3 per cent more this year.
But it won't last: over the next few years, that's going to dip to 4.5 per cent per year.
Finance Minister Eric Girard argued that increase will still represent more money overall, since the government is bumping up the total funding for the system right now. (Basically, it's a smaller percentage of a bigger pie.)
There is money set aside for specific programs, though. For example, $21 million is earmarked to create 15 long-COVID clinics over the next three years.
The government is also adding $72 million over the next five years to fund medically assisted reproduction programs, like in-vitro fertilization, or IVF.
Is the government helping seniors or addressing the long-term care crisis?
The government has earmarked more money for both at-home care and long-term care homes.
For seniors in apartment buildings, the maximum rent eligible for the at-home care tax credit is doubling, from $600 to $1,200.
If you use at-home services — like hiring someone to help an elderly parent with dementia, for example — the government is expanding the tax credit for that, too. Before, it only covered 35 per cent of costs.
It will now go up by one per cent every year, to 40 per cent in 2026.
Meanwhile, for those who can't stay at home, the government is putting aside $1.5 billion to open new seniors' homes and alternative kinds of residential care.
As for CHSLDs, the budget said the pandemic revealed "a number of problems in residential settings, especially in private unfunded CHSLDs."
There will additional $129 million to bring their services more in line with the public system's standard of care.
Wait! What if there's another wave of COVID-19?
The government has set aside $1.7 billion in case of a "change in the epidemiological situation" in the coming year, though it would need Treasury Board approval to use it.
That money includes funding for another vaccination campaign, in case it turns out we all need another dose. There's also money to buy more at-home tests and expand hospital capacity as needed.
There's also a separate $48 million set aside for "the deployment of prevention and public health initiatives," namely to better respond to future pandemics.
- A previous version of this story stated that eligible Quebecers will automatically receive their $500 tax credit, but only if they file their taxes by April 30. In fact, Revenu Québec says the credit will be paid out to all eligible individuals who file a return for 2021, regardless of when they file it.Mar 22, 2022 9:04 PM ET