Toronto.com: Laid-off Scarborough event manager worries about paying bills

Posted April 9, 2020

Mohammad Ud-Doula's job is bringing people together. Now that everybody’s staying apart, he’s at home, laid off.
 
Before COVID-19, the Scarborough man made $4,000 a month, mainly as a manager for an event staffing agency.
 
But ours is now a country with no corporate events, at least not in person, so from March 9, Ud-Doula has had no job.
 
He also worked, part-time and self-employed, as a conference manager for a large financial services group, but that company no longer has on-site meetings to manage.
 
“If they don’t have anything, I don’t get a call,” said Ud-Doula, 45, who lives in a three-bedroom apartment with his wife, son and brother.
 
Yes, the government in Ottawa is offering the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a $2,000-a-month stipend for three months.
 
But even with that federal relief, Ud-Doula doesn’t think he can make his own household budget balance.
 
He pays $2,000 in rent, but his monthly household expenses are at least $3,000, not including groceries.
 
“Everything starts piling up right now,” said Ud-Doula, who pays $330 in car insurance, utility bills, cable and telephone, plus $150 a month in life insurance.
 
Ud-Doula has stopped paying $300 a month into RRSPs, but feels he can’t cancel life insurance, his only chance, he said, “to leave something for my family when I leave this world.”
 
After six months, Ud-Doula predicted: “I’ll have a $6,000 loan on me. How am I going to pay that off?
 
“Nobody’s talking about this.”
 
Actually, Ud-Doula believes his business clients won’t start planning large meetings for many months, perhaps a year, so his financial prospects could well be worse.
 
CERB is set to run out after 12 weeks.
 
His brother, laid off from two restaurants closed by COVID-19, will only get about $1,000 a month, which “is nothing, to be honest with you.”
 
Ud-Doula said he isn’t trying to take advantage — he just thinks renters like himself need more help than banks and property management companies do.
 
Families such as Ud-Doula’s worry about having to choose between paying the rent and buying food during the pandemic, and in Scarborough there are certainly many others earning less each month, and even closer to making such choices.
 
Marva Burnett, Scarborough resident and national president of the advocacy group ACORN Canada, says they shouldn’t have to.
 
ACORN said governments, particularly the province, must “step up to the plate” to protect renters with low incomes, she said.
 
Employment Insurance, if people qualify, pays only 55 per cent of what they earned, and many tenants already pay more than half their income in rent, said Burnett.
 
The province has asked landlords to defer rents if tenants can’t pay, and to halt evictions for now, but Burnett argued that won’t protect tenants later when landlords demand their back rents.
 
“You know that some of these landlords are just itching to start the eviction process,” she said.
 
“We can’t have the people who suffer the most continue to suffer. We’re already poor as it is.”
 
Burnett said ACORN is asking for a rent freeze “until people get back on their feet,” and will use tenants' household budgets to convince politicians it’s necessary.
 
“I think it’s going to take a lot of people pushing for this to get done.”
 
Salma Zahid, Ud-Doula’s MP, said the federal government’s relief package is one of the biggest in Canada’s history. “We’re trying to ensure the maximum amount of people can take advantage of this,” she said.
 
The Liberal representing Scarborough Centre said the Trudeau government is offering employers a 75 per cent wage subsidy to keep employees on their payroll.
 
It’s also providing $300 for each child, during the first week of May, in addition to the regular Canada Child Benefit, and enhanced GST relief, $600 for couples and $400 for individuals, said Zahid.
 
“We are taking these measures just to see we all get through this.”
 
 
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Article by Mike Adler for Toronto.com

 

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