Covid-19 and May 1, 2020
I read and heard a lot of material about Covid-19 here in Ontario that would have the crisis end on April 6, coinciding neatly with the return of children to school. That didn’t work out. Now, there is vague talk about sometime in May or perhaps the crisis extending all the way into fall. The truth is, of course, that no one knows when it will end.
We can expect that with the coming of May 1 and a new round of mortgage, rent and other bill payments, the initial shock will turn into conditions that will last for several months. By the end of April, the impact of the shutdown of the economy and the health crisis in the medical system should be clearer. The array of government and corporate programs intended to counter the effects should be having their effects. The various financial markets should have absorbed the new realities by May 1.
One significant concern that will emerge by the end of April will be our supply chains for food and other essential goods. The stories that we have read so far have to do with medical supplies of course, but there are other challenges. Our ability to source goods has become vulnerable in recent years.
Our local producers and stockpiles are small. We rely on cross-border transportation and suppliers. Already, food suppliers have been quietly ramping up production and stockpiling. Some important food processors and suppliers are closing their doors due to Covid-19 spread and more may follow. The grocery chains are doing their best to keep food flowing but only with heroic effort.
In my world of real estate and business financing, there are still funds available. By May 1, we will begin to see how far real estate values are going to fall, have a better sense of how the real estate industry is going to function, and learn who will be able to make payments going forward for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.
Those of us engaged in providing financial advice need to see well beyond May 1. There are many programs designed to assist those who are struggling in their business and personal finances. By the end of April, there will be still be significant gaps.
An important distinction is between grants and loans. Many of the programs do no more than defer payments. Even the much-vaunted Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is taxable, meaning that sometime next year the recipients will need to pay 25% or more back to the government. They will have bought groceries and not taken their wise CPA’s advice to put some in a tax account.
The best news that we heard this week is that there has been significant progress with testing technology. (See: https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/health-canada-approves-spartan-biosciences-portable-covid-19-test )
If we were able to quickly distinguish between those who are ill and those who are not, get medical help to those who need it immediately, and allow the rest of us to get back to work, May 1 might turn out to be the beginning of many better days.
Jay Brennan is a Toronto mortgage agent who has seen many market ups and downs. He can be reached at email@example.com.