Need Immediate Financial Help in Canada? Here’s Where to Turn

By Baggio Ma | Published on 11 Jul 2023

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    Debt and financial hardship can feel like a never-ending, downward spiral. As interest compounds, the amount you owe can grow at a staggering rate. If things ever get to this point, it is time to admit that you need immediate financial help in Canada. Luckily for you, there are plenty of resources and services to help Canadians deal with their financial hardships. 

    In 2023, Canadian consumer debt skyrocketed to record highs. According to TransUnion, Canadian credit debt hit a new record of $2.32 trillion earlier this year. TransUnion also reported in July that nearly one-third of Canadians are currently unable to pay their bills. This article will discuss where you can turn when you need immediate financial help in Canada and how these services can help turn your life around. 

    Provincial Emergency Assistance Programs

    One of the fastest ways to get immediate financial help in Canada is through Provincial Emergency Assistance Programs. Each Province and Territory in Canada offers these emergency financial services to their citizens. These services can range from obtaining help for paying for groceries and shelter to necessary home improvements. 

    The emergency assistance programs are intended to help Canadians who suddenly find themselves in a financial crisis. Whether it is from losing employment or being suddenly able to work, if you are unable to meet your basic needs then you will likely qualify for one of these programs. 

    Note that these programs are not permanent, they are only meant to be used while looking for new employment.

    Provincial ProgramContact Monthly Payout 
    Alberta Income Support Phone: 1-866-644-9992
    Email: css.ascc@gov.ab.ca
    Website: Income Support | Alberta.ca
    $790 for single adult
    $1,244 for single adult and child
    $1,371 for single adult and two children
    $1,499 for single adult and three children 
    $1,627 for single adult and four children 
    $1,184 for couple with no children
    $1,547 for couple with one child
    $1,674 for couple with two children 
    $1,791 for couple with three children
    $1,919 for couple with four children 
    BC Income Assistance ProgramPhone: 1-866-866-0800
    Website: Income assistance – Province of British Columbia
    $935 per month for single adult
    $1,525 per month if you and your spouse are on BC income assistance
    $1,280 if you are a single parent with one child
    $1,720 if you and your spouse are on BC income assistance and have one child
    Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS)Phone: 1-866-221-5200
    Website: Saskatchewan Income Support | Financial Help
    Saskatoon/Regina:$630 per single adult
    $805 for a couple without dependent children
    $1030 for families with 1-2 children
    $1,205 for families with 3 or more children 
    Rest of Saskatchewan$570 per single adult
    $695 for a couple without dependent children
    $795 for families with 1-2 children
    $895 for families with 3 or more children 
    Manitoba’s Employment and Income Assistance ProgramPhone: 1-855-944-8111
    Website: Province of Manitoba | fs – Employment and Income Assistance (EIA)
    $796 per month per adult 
    Varies for families with children 
    Quebec Social Assistance ProgramPhone: 1-877-767-8773
    Website: Application for financial assistance | Gouvernement du Québec
    $770 per month but may vary depending on family and employment situation
    Ontario WorksPhone: 1-888-789-4199
    Website: Ontario Works
    $733 per month but may be adjusted based on your situation
    Newfoundland Income SupportPhone: 1-877-729-7888
    Website: Applying for Income Support – Children, Seniors and Social Development
    For People Maintaining a Household or Living with Non-Relatives:
    $561 for a single adult
    $794 for a couple with no dependent children
    $729 for a single parent with dependent children
    $779 for a couple with dependent children 
    For People Living with Relatives:
    $339 for a single adult
    $674 for a couple with no dependent children
    $599 for a single parent with dependent children
    $779 for a couple with dependent children 
    New Brunswick Social Assistance Program Phone: 1-833-733-7835
    Email: sd-ds@gnb.ca
    Website: Social Assistance Program
    Transitional Assistance Program
    $637 per single adult
    $683 per designated person
    $999 for 2 person, 1 of which is under the age of 19
    $1,017 for two adults
    $1,057 for three persons
    Nova Scotia Income Assistance Phone: 1-877-424-1177
    Website: Income Assistance (IA) | Nova Scotia Department of Community Services
    If You Rent/Own
    $686 per single adult
    $962 for single adult and dependent child
    $1,013 for a single adult and 2 or more dependent children
    $1,342 for two adults
    $1,393 for two adults and one or more dependent child 
    Prince Edward Island Social Assistance Program Phone: 1-877-569-0546
    Email: DeptSDH@gov.pe.ca
    Website: Social Assistance Program | Government of Prince Edward Island
    $511 per single adult
    $388 for children ages 12-17
    $293 for children ages 0-11
    Yukon Social Assistance Program Phone: 1-800-661-0408
    Website: Apply for social assistance | Government of Yukon
    Varies per family and employment situations
    Nunavat Income Assistance Program Phone: 
    South Qikiqtani: 1-855-975-6580North Qikiqtani: 1-800-567-1514Kivalliq: 1-800-953-8516Kitikmeot: 1-800-661-0845
    Website: Income Assistance (IA) | Government of Nunavut
    For Residents of Arviat, Iqaluit, and Rankin Inlet
    $914 for 1 family member
    $1,024 for 2 family members
    $1,446 for 3 family members
    $1,840 for 4 family members
    $2,203 for 5 family members
    $2,538 for 6 family members
    $2,845 for 7 family members
    $3,121 for 8 family members
    $3,369 for 9 family members
    $3,589 for 10 family members
    Other regions in Nunavut have similar payment amounts per family size
    Northwest Territories Disaster Assistance ProgramPhone: (866) 973-7252
    Website: Income Assistance Program | Education, Culture and Employment
    Varies per family and employment situations 

    Employment Insurance (EI)

    Employment Insurance or EI in Canada is a financial assistance program that provides temporary income support to unemployed Canadians. This program is managed on a federal level by the Canadian Employment Insurance Commission or CEIC. As of July 2023, over 754,000 Canadians are collecting EI in some form. 

    Contrary to popular belief, EI is not just for unemployed or recently laid-off workers. In Canada, EI is also paid to those who are unable to work due to illness, those on maternity leave, caring for a newborn or adopted child, caring for a critically ill or injured person, and caring for a family member who is seriously ill with a significant risk of death. 

    To collect EI under any of the previously listed circumstances, one must have paid EI premiums in the previous calendar year. For non-self-employed workers, these dues are usually automatically deducted from each paycheque. EI is just one of many benefits and services that are provided by the Federal government to assist those in financial distress. 

    How to Calculate Your EI Benefit in Canada

    There is a simple calculation for determining your EI benefit in Canada. This figure does depend on certain factors including the level of unemployment in your region and your region’s required number of best weeks. The number of best weeks of pay is determined by the unemployment rate in that region. 

    Source: EI Regular Benefits

    Source EI Regular Benefits

    Withdraw from Locked-In RRSP or Life Insurance 

    For most Canadians, RRSPs are tax-friendly investments that will provide income in retirement or for our families in the future. But what happens when you are in immediate need of financial help in Canada? When you are at this point of last resort, desperate times call for desperate measures. In Canada, there is a service called the FHU or the Financial Hardship Unlocking Program. This allows for a one-time source of relief for those suffering from sudden financial hardship. 

    Withdrawing from a locked-in RRSP for financial hardship is dependent on your Province’s legislation. The actual decision on whether you can withdraw locked-in funds is determined by your financial institution. It is also important to note that not every Province and Territory offers this program for financial hardship. 

    Canadians are not just limited to RRSPs and Life Income Funds (LIF). This also applies to other locked-in pensions including Locked-In Retirement Accounts (LIRA), as well as pension plans that are provincial or federally regulated. 

    For financial hardship, Canadians can apply for a one-time transfer as cash or to a tax-deferred savings vehicle. This is still subject to any applicable income tax rules. As of 2023, the maximum amount that you can unlock is determined primarily by the annual expected income. This is generally calculated as between 50% to 75% of one’s YMPE or Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings

    Getting Personal Loans

    In an ideal world, if you suddenly find yourself in immediate need of financial assistance, you would be able to obtain a personal loan. But for many Canadians who are already suffering from poor credit history, obtaining a personal loan is simply not an option. Neither is qualifying for a line of credit or a HELOC which is a Home Equity Line of Credit. While banks will take into consideration your credit history and financial stability, you will have more luck qualifying for a personal loan from a private lender in Canada

    But this is one scenario where that poor credit history could be a blessing in disguise. This is not to say that a poor credit score is a benefit, but in times of financial hardship, obtaining a personal loan will usually make the situation worse. How would a personal loan make things worse? Getting a personal loan at a time when you need immediate financial help is like throwing further fuel on the fire. If things continue to escalate you will need to take even more drastic measures like going to court for a consumer proposal or even declaring bankruptcy. 

    A personal loan or line of credit should always be used as a temporary fix. When you have an outstanding balance on your loan, you will incur monthly interest payments. These payments will continue to compound with each passing month, just as with a debt on a credit card. If you are in a position of financial hardship then the last thing you need to do is add another recurring interest charge to your situation. 

    There are times when a personal loan can be helpful, especially if your financial burden is only a small one. Consolidating your debt into one lower-interest debt can be a way to alleviate some of the financial stress. Before applying for a personal loan or a low-interest credit card, make sure it is the right solution for your financial problems. If you are unsure consolidating your debts is a solution for you, consider consulting a free credit counselling service to get advice from a debt professional. 

    Start a Crowdfunding Campaign with GoFundMe

    Asking for money from strangers is not a natural instinct for many Canadians. It might seem like a way of begging for money or looking for handouts. But when you are in immediate need of financial assistance in Canada, it is time to take drastic measures. 

    If you require financial assistance you can consider starting a crowdfunding campaign on a site like GoFundMe. This site is one of the largest crowdfunding platforms in the world and is widely used by Canadians each year. In 2022, Canadians donated over $26 million to a long list of different causes and campaigns. 

    You might be thinking that nobody would give you any donations if you are simply asking for it. Well, you might be surprised. Those people who frequent sites like GoFundMe are often altruistic by nature. You will most likely be surprised by how much you can receive through a crowdfunding campaign. It does help if you thoroughly and modestly explain your current situation in your campaign. It also helps if you offer to provide a good or service in exchange for the donation. 

    Crowdfunding certainly isn’t for everyone. But for those that are willing to try it, relying on the charity of others could be a way to at least lighten the financial burden that is weighing you down. 

    Financial Help in Canada: The Bottom Line

    As you can see there are plenty of options for Canadians who find themselves in sudden financial hardship. Each province and territory offers an emergency financial aid service to help you get back on your feet. Before making a decision like declaring for bankruptcy, consider your options like withdrawing from a locked-in RRSP, collecting EI, and even crowdsourcing some donations from other generous Canadians. When you need immediate financial help in Canada, there is always somewhere for you to turn. 

    FAQs About Financial Help in Canada

    How to ask your partner for financial help?  

    Be honest and clear about what your current situation is. Many people avoid this because they are concerned about what their partner will think of them. At this point, put your ego aside and reach out to your partner humbly and honestly. Be clear that you intend to pay them back and provide them with a timeline of repayment. The amount of help you seek will likely be dependent on the length and seriousness of your relationship. 

    Is there any financial help for widows in Canada? 

    Yes, in Canada there is a program called Allowance for the Survivor. This is a monthly payment you can receive when you are between the ages of 60 and 64 and your spouse has recently passed away. There are other stipulations such as a low annual income, that you have resided in Canada for at least 10 years after the age of 18, and that you have not remarried or become a common law partner since your spouse has died. 

    How to get financial help from the government in Canada? 

    There is a long list of financial services and benefits that are offered by the government in Canada. These include programs like Employment Insurance (EI), the Allowance for the Survivor, child and family benefits, and student loans and grants. Each Province also has its emergency financial assistance programs that can help you if you find yourself in sudden financial distress. 

    How do I get financial help in Alberta? 

    The easiest way to get financial help in Alberta is to apply for its Income Support program. This program can help you and your family with the necessities of life while you seek other employment or figure out a way to deal with financial hardship. If it is an emergency, you can contact the 24-Hour Emergency Income Support Contact Center at 1-866-644-9992 or email at css.iscc@gov.ab.ca.

    Can the catholic church help me financially?

    Yes, the Catholic Church in Canada can help you financially but at most churches, you will need to be a member. The Catholic Church is one of the wealthiest religious organizations in the world but that does not mean they are handing out free money to anyone that needs it! 

    Can you get financial help for mental illness in Canada? 

    Yes, there is a Canadian Disability Tax Credit which reduces the income taxes you need to pay each year. This program offers up to $36,000 in tax credits and benefits to help pay for treatments and any other support the individual might require. 

    How to contact celebrities for financial help?

    Believe it or not, some people do reach out successfully to celebrities for financial help. You will need to be very honest and open about your situation and provide proof as well. Do not be greedy and be genuine in your request. Try to contact the celebrity directly via a letter or email to them or their representatives. Reaching out on social media is not a good way to get direct access to a celebrity. 

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    Baggio Ma has written for several Canadian websites on a variety of personal finance related topics. His knowledge is informed by his personal financial journey as an investor over the past 5 years. He invests using the online brokerage platform Wealthsimple, shops with one of the best credit cards in Canada, and keeps track of his credit score through Borrowell.