Taz Rajan, community engagement partner at Bromwich+Smith, is photographed at her office in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Seek help early if you are struggling with debt as deferrals end, experts say

Many don’t know where to look for help if they are struggling with debt

As payment deferrals offered during the height of the pandemic come to an end and many Canadians remain out of work or underemployed, experts say if you think you need financial help, the sooner you seek it the better.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which came to an end at the end of September, helped almost nine million Canadians weather the pandemic and Ottawa has announced the new Canada Recovery Benefit for the self-employed who won’t qualify for employment insurance.

But the government aid programs only go so far and only if you qualify, so as payment deferrals on mortgages, car loans and credit cards expire, the bills will start piling up.

Taz Rajan, community engagement partner at insolvency trustees Bromwich+Smith in Calgary, says if you find yourself ignoring or minimizing your situation that can be an early warning sign that you need to take action before it becomes a real problem.

“There’s been deferrals for a while so you haven’t really necessarily had to service all of your debt,” she said.

Other warning signs to watch for, she says, is if your anxiety is interfering your sleep or you are feeling distracted at work

“If you’re finding there’s more month than money or all of the money that comes into your account is going to service your debt, that is definitely a sign you want to reach out for help,” Rajan said.

While many Canadians have adjusted to working from home or returned to work since the lockdowns of the spring have eased, many people remain out of work or working fewer hours due to the pandemic.

Bankruptcy filings dropped in the spring as government aid programs kicked in and lenders offered deferral programs to help struggling Canadians, but as the crisis has continued, those deferral programs are now coming to an end and payments will need to resume.

Credit Counselling Canada is offering free financial health checkups to help Canadians assess where they stand.

“CERB helped many people stay afloat hoping for better times and the shift to EI and other programs like the CRB will be helpful, but the fact is a lot of Canadians are going to see less funds coming from those sources,” said Michelle Pommells, the association’s chief executive.

She said while many Canadians know what the financial warning signs are, many don’t know where to look for help if they are struggling with debt.

An online survey done for the association at the end of August found that 37 per cent had no idea where to turn when facing financial difficulty, while 23 per cent would pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

“Rather like compound interest, unfortunately debt just compounds and gets worse unless you deal with it, so burying your head in the sand is not the answer,” she said.

Pommells said non-profit credit counselling organizations can offer unbiased advice for those seeking help.

“A non-profit credit counsellor will sit down with you and explain all the options that are available to you,” she said.

Pommells suggested that as the crisis has dragged on, those helped by Ottawa’s aid programs have also likely been burning through savings and others sources of cash to help carry themselves through the summer and now those funds may be running out.

“Now is the time to reach out and recognize that the warning signs of debt are important, but they can only be addressed if people take action,” she said.

Rajan says there can be a lot of shame and stigma associated with debt, but being able to talk about it is important.

“It is about that normalizing the conversation, we haven’t gotten there yet, but that’s what we’re hoping to do,” she said.

Craig Wong, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusDebt

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Right, Ambassador of Hungary to Canada, Her Excellency Dr. Maria Vass-Salazar, lays a wreath at St. Michael’s RC Cemetery in Manfred, Ponoka County on Oct. 25. (Emily Jaycox/Bashaw Star)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. The Alberta government is hoping to get more Albertans employed by moving to limit the number and type of temporary foreign workers it allows into the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta to limit temporary foreign worker program to save jobs for Albertans

Temporary foreign workers already in the province won’t be affected

Submitted
Montana First Nations councillor gives back to youth

Has pledged 10 per cent of his salary for youth programming

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

Most Read