Big banks promise mortgage help for Canadians as Ottawa set to announce $25B in COVID-19 relief

The federal government is set to announce Wednesday a massive aid package worth more than $25 billion to help Canadians get through the COVID-19 crisis, CBC News-Radio Canada has learned. But banks and mortgage lenders have already said they're ready to help.

Mortgage, rent help could be part of federal package to be announced Wednesday

Many Canadians are concerned about financial payments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

As COVID-19 spreads across the country, many people have already lost their jobs, or have been laid off as small businesses close or limit their hours. Often the next question for those affected is, 'How am I going to pay my mortgage or rent?'

Well, it looks like help is on the way, as the federal government is set to announce Wednesday a massive aid package worth more than $25 billion to help Canadians and small businesses get through the COVID-19 crisis, CBC News-Radio Canada has learned.

But private banks and lenders have already announced they're taking action.

In a new release late Tuesday, TD Bank announced that the country's six largest financial institutions will "provide financial relief to Canadians impacted by the economic consequences of COVID-19.

"Effective immediately, Bank of Montreal, CIBC, National Bank of Canada, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD Bank have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges such as pay disruption due to COVID-19; childcare disruption due to school closures; or those facing illness from COVID-19," the statement reads.

"This support will include up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products."

Some other lenders, like RMG Mortgages, have also sent their clients emails about "Hold-a-Payment or Skip-a-Payment options." 

The federal package to be announced Wednesday could also include help for people to keep a roof over their heads. Last Friday, the government said it will help people financially to ensure they can pay their rent or mortgages.

"We are looking at ways to help Canadians directly, yes," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Early the next day, CMHC tweeted that it "will support lenders in allowing deferral of mortgage payments for up to six months for those impacted [by the coronavirus]." 

That help will come if your mortgage is already insured by CMHC, which usually happens if you put down less than 20 per cent of the purchase price when you bought your property. 

Genworth Canada and Canada Guaranty will also be allowing mortgage payment deferrals on insured mortgages.

If your down payment was 20 per cent or more, you likely don't have an insured mortgage. But in a statement Tuesday, the CMHC said it's examining options to help you, too. 

CMHC will try to help renters

"We are also exploring, with others, potential relief measures for those who cannot make payments on uninsured mortgages and renters," said Evan Siddall, president and CEO of CMHC. 

What this means for renters and those with uninsured mortgages is still unclear. 

In a series of tweets, Sidall said he understands that renters are often in more precarious situations and even though "we do not have direct relations with renters, income support measures (announced and forthcoming) will help renters.

"We have written our landlord clients to insist on no evictions," said Sidall. 

For homeowners, the important thing to figure out now, said mortgage broker Tom Miocevich, is what kind of mortgage you have and what the best options are for you. 

For instance, "if you're on a biweekly frequency and you're ahead of schedule for a few months,"some banks already offer a payment-pause program that's relatively easy, Miocevich said.  

CMHC had a deferral program in place long before COVID-19, but the length of time granted was on a case-by-case basis, often shorter than six months.