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

By Baggio Ma | Published on 11 Jul 2023

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. 

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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
Website: Income Support |
$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
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
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. 

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. 

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.