60% of Albertans say they're $200 or less away from not being able to pay their bills amid crisis

Six out of 10 Albertans say they’re $200 or less away from not being able to pay their monthly bills, an indication of the level of financial shock the COVID-19 pandemic has caused in the province, according to a new survey released Monday by a national personal insolvency firm.

The MNP Consumer Debt Index, which was compiled by the polling firm Ipsos, also found that one in three Albertans report being already unable to meet all their debt obligations every month.

The index also notes that 48 per cent of Albertans say they are concerned about their current debt levels.

That is a four-point increase from December and the highest percentage ever recorded since tracking began in 2017, MNP said.

“Everyone in Alberta is experiencing some sort of financial disruption right now whether with their paycheques, in their pocketbooks or in their stock portfolios,” said MNP insolvency trustee Zaki Alam.

“Many in the province were already saddled with a lot of debt before the pandemic and are now heading into economic survival mode.”

The survey also found that Albertans are much more likely than people in other provinces to say they are worried that either themselves or someone in their household could lose their job — 46 per cent, eight points higher than the national rate.

Albertans are also the most likely — at 46 per cent, 10 points higher than nationally — to say they are not confident in their ability to cope financially with the loss of employment, change in wages or seasonal work without going further into debt.

Alam says that those who were already deeply indebted and have now lost their jobs need go through the right channels for support, including consulting with insolvency trustees, who can offer legal protection from creditors as they guide people through the consumer proposal or bankruptcy process. 

“One of the worst things for households to do is panic and run up credit cards or take out payday loans,” said Alam. 

“Losing your income overnight is a terrifying experience, but if you are in danger of missing payments, you should communicate with your creditors right away and seek debt advice from a licensed professional.”

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