In addition to its serious health consequences, COVID-19 is causing Canadians to worry about their financial health, according to a survey commissioned by the Angus Reid Institute.
The results suggest the virus outbreak is already having a major impact on Canadians’ finances.
More than a third (34 per cent) of respondents said they were worried about missing a rent or mortgage payment this month because of the virus, which has caused widespread layoffs and a drastic reduction in the amount of paid work available for those lucky enough to have kept their jobs.
Among those surveyed, 44 per cent said they had either lost work themselves since the crisis began, or someone else who lives in their household has. An additional 18 per cent say they expect to lose work soon.
The polling firm said it conducted the survey online March 20 to 23 using “a representative randomized sample of 1,664 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum.” Statisticians say sample of that size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Even among those who are currently working, more than half say it is only a matter of time before their hours get cut.
Businesses are cutting back because of quarantines and the corresponding drastic reduction in demand for products and services. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said Monday that one-third of small businesses across the country won’t be able to survive the next month without massive government aid.
“More than half of small firms have begun laying off staff, with a quarter reporting they have already been forced to lay off their entire workforce,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said.
Those layoffs are already adding up. The federal government said last week it has been flooded with a record number of new applications for employment insurance since the crisis began, and the numbers have risen since then.
“For all of March last year, there were about 150,000 applications,” Scotiabank economist Derek Holt said in a note to clients on Wednesday, “versus 929,000 just last week alone.”
That number is likely to increase in the coming weeks as “many small business will be forced to make additional layoff decisions in the next few days,” Kelly said.