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The federal government is supporting people and businesses with billions of dollars, yet March was still historic in its economic awfulness.

Locking down the economy will do that. But it’s also becoming clear that federal aid dollars in the pandemic aren’t always reaching those who need help. Example: Doctors who have been unable to tap into the Canada Emergency Business Account, which is meant to help small businesses pay operating costs during the pandemic with an interest-free loan of up to $40,000.

The Globe has received calls from doctors who say they could not qualify for the CEBA because they didn’t have a business bank account. Among the requirements to access CEBA is having an active business chequing or operational account opened prior to March 1, 2020.

Business accounts typically charge higher fees than conventional accounts, they may not offer the same level of features, and setting them up can be an administrative hassle. Jason Pereira, a financial planner with Woodgate Financial who has worked with doctors, said his firm mostly deals with individuals in this field who are incorporated and thus would have a business account. “The exceptions in my practice tend to be doctors who are in their first few years of operations,” he said.

Doctors have been affected in the pandemic by cancelled surgeries and a drop-off in clinic visits. Their income in large part depends on them seeing patients and performing procedures.

The financial challenges faced by doctors was recently highlighted in an announcement by the Asclepios Medical Clinic in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans that it would close May 31. “The closure is the result of the clinic simply not having the resources to sustain the increased operational costs and decreased revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the clinic said on its website.

A CEBA loan is interest-free until the end of 2022. Repaying $30,000 by the end of 2022 results in loan forgiveness of $10,000. Even with CEBA, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and other programs, economic output still fell by 7.2 per cent in March from the previous month, the largest monthly drop on record.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

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From making $75,000 to collecting EI

Checking in with a free-spending 28-year-old marketing manager in Toronto who received a financial reality check when he was laid off in the pandemic.

Reverse mortgage costs heading lower

Interest rates on reverse mortgages are higher than on regular mortgages, but they’re heading lower. reports a five-year fixed rate under 4 per cent for the first time.

Ask Rob

Q: I withdrew the fully prescribed minimum amount from my RRIF in January. How do I adjust for the 25-per-cent reduction under the government’s COVID-19 measures?

A: Here’s a rundown on the federal announcement that the minimum required withdrawal from registered retirement income funds this year would be reduced by 25 per cent. Wilmot George, vice-president of tax, retirement and estate planning at CI Investments, explains that there is no provision to allow people to re-contribute money to RRIFs that was withdrawn early in the year.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

The deadline for filing your 2019 income tax return was June 1, which means it’s prime time for scammers preying on our fear of being offside with the Canada Revenue Agency. Here’s a definitive guide on what to expect from CRA when contacting you by phone, e-mail and mail. Not text – the CRA does not send text messages.

What I’ve been writing about

  • Why the people rushing to get life insurance now are doing a smart thing
  • Pandemic personal finance update finale: A 10-point checklist of things you should have done by now to protect or improve your money situation
  • Is it a good move to buy stocks with borrowed money? (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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