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Into debt just to eat vs. saving more than ever before: Poll provides insights into pandemic impacts on B.C.

Last Updated May 15, 2020 at 11:45 am PDT

(Source: iStock)

Many British Columbians say they're actually saving money amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Despite many not being financially impacted by the health crisis, the majority of British Columbians are struggling

About 13 per cent of British Columbains say they are going into debt to cover their expenses in the short term

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Despite the doom and gloom for many, it appears a number of British Columbians haven’t been financially impacted by COVID-19.

Forty-per-cent of respondents to a recent poll by Insights West say they haven’t been subjected to any negative financial impacts due to the pandemic, with more than a quarter of people saying they’re actually even saving more money.

“They’re not going out for dinners as often, they’re not booking vacations, they’re not buying major purchases because of the fear of the unknown in the future, so it is an interesting stat that we show 26 per cent of B.C. residents are actually saving more money than they actually have before,” Insights West President Steve Mossop explains.

However, the majority — 54 per cent — of B.C. residents say that’s not the case for them.

“It ranges from things like two thirds are feeling it in their RRSPs to 31 per cent of us having difficulty paying household expenses,” Mossop explains. “There’s even 21 per cent who are finding it difficult to put food on the table today, so it really has impacted us at a whole bunch of different levels.”

Meanwhile, 41 per cent of people have had issues paying rent, Insights West has found.

“On the other hand, 85 per cent have managed to pay their rent since the crisis began, so there’s really only 15 per cent who have taken action such as asking for a rent reduction, participating in the rent subsidy program — about half of those people have, and a very small fraction have simply not paid rent altogether,” Mossop says.

When it comes to homeowners, Mossop adds a smaller number of people — 29 per cent — have said the coronavirus outbreak has had a negative impact on their ability to pay their mortgage.

However, most — 87 per cent — have been able to keep up with monthly payments.

“Only a sliver, by one per cent, have defaulted, while 12 per cent have taken advantage of deferral arrangements with their lender,” he notes.

It’s been about two months since British Columbians started to hunker down and physical distance, with many businesses shuttering — either temporarily or permanently — putting people out of work.

The brunt of the pain is being felt by people who are 18 to 34 years old, Mossop notes.

“Sixty-per-cent say that the impact is negative financially to them versus only 49 per cent of those 55 plus,” he tells NEWS 1130. “And that’s been the story throughout. It’s impacted lower income earners, the youth of our province. But it is interesting to see that about 40 per cent of those in the 18-to-34-year-old group are actually saving more money than usual, which is higher than the 26 per cent of British Columbians overall. So there is a bit of good news there.”

About 13 per cent of people across the province say they are going into debt to cover their expenses in the short term — and at the extreme end of the spectrum, six per cent are likely to declare personal bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic.

While it’s not all bad news, Mossop says the financial impacts the pandemic has brought on will likely last a long time.

“We’re just starting to see the numbers piling up here,” he says. “We’ll probably see more bad news in the future.”

-With files from Dean Recksiedler