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UPDATE: Frequently Asked Questions: Income support for Canadians during COVID-19

Coronavirus Update
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Updated April 16, 2020

Note: The answers below were compiled from the information available on the Government of Canada’s website retrieved at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.htm

Section 1: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Q1. What is the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?

The CERB provides temporary income support if you lost work due to COVID-19. The benefit is available for up to 16 weeks. The CERB is designed to help those Canadians who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI), although as noted below, workers who qualify for EI can also qualify for this benefit. The CERB will be jointly administered by Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

 Q2. How do I know if I am eligible for the CERB?

This is the eligibility criteria:

  • Resident of Canada, 15 years of age or older;
  • Have stopped working due to COVID-19 or are eligible for EI regular Benefits or EI sickness  benefits;
  • Had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months preceding the date of  application from any of these sources, or a combination of these sources: employment, self-employment, or maternity or parental leave benefits; and
  • Did not quit their job voluntarily.

In addition, when submitting your first claim, you cannot have earned more than $1,000 for 14 consecutive days of the four-week period, and no more than $1,000 in total for each subsequent claim. (The CERB provides a payment for each four-week eligibility period.)

Q3. What situations does the CERB cover?

The CERB is available to those who stopped work due to COVID, including but not limited to:

  • You have been let go from your job;
  • You are earning no more than $1,000 per each four week-eligibility period from employment and/or self-employment income;
  • You are in quarantine, or are sick due to COVID-19, or are caring for others who are in quarantine or are sick;
  • You are away from work caring for children or other dependents whose care facility is closed due to COVID-19.

In addition, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria, CERB now covers many seasonal workers and workers who have recently exhausted their EI benefits. See Q6.

Q4. Do I have to be laid off to be eligible for the CERB?

No, you can still remain “attached” to your employer and receive the CERB as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.

Q5. Can I collect the CERB if I earn some employment income?

Yes, if you meet the eligibility criteria and you don’t earn more than $1,000 per each four-week eligibility period, with the exception of your first claim. As outlined in Q2, when submitting your first claim, you cannot have earned more than $1,000 for at least 14 consecutive days of the four-week eligibility period, and then, no more than $1,000 for the entire four-week period of each subsequent claim. These changes to the eligibility rules are retroactive to March 15, 2020.

Q6. Am I eligible for the CERB if I am a seasonal worker or a worker who has recently exhausted my EI benefits?

Yes, if you are a seasonal worker who has exhausted your EI benefits and your usual seasonal work is not available as a result of COVID-19. Similarly, if you are a worker who has exhausted your EI benefits and cannot find work due to COVID-19 you are eligible for the CERB. These changes to the eligibility rules are retroactive to March 15, 2020. Details are to be posted on the CERB portal.

Q7. How much does the CERB pay out and what are the eligibility periods?

The eligibility periods are fixed in four-week blocks of time. Find the dates of each eligibility period here. The CERB provides a payment of $2,000 for each four-week eligibility period for up to 16 weeks (four eligibility periods). Essentially, you are applying for the CERB for each four-week period. The CERB is a taxable benefit. However, tax will not be deducted at source. You will report the benefit as income in your income tax filing for the 2020 tax year.

Q8. How long is the CERB available for and where can I find out more?

The CERB is available from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020. (However, you can only receive the CERB for up to 16 weeks within that time frame.) You can apply no later than December 2, 2020 for payments retroactive to that time. You can learn more about the CERB by going here.

Q9. When can I apply?

In order to manage what is expected to be a huge volume of applications, the Canadian government is asking you to submit your application on the CERB portal on specific days of the week according to the month you were born:

January, February or March  –  apply on Mondays, including Mon. April 13.

April, May or June – apply on Tuesdays, including Tues., April 14.

July, August or September – apply on Wednesdays, including Wed. April 15.

October, November or December – apply on Thursdays, including Thurs., April 16.

Any month – apply on Friday, Saturdays or Sundays.

Q10. What can I do now to get ready to apply?

The government strongly advises that you register for your CRA My Account and Direct Deposit by going here.

Q11. Is there a waiting period for the CERB?

There is no waiting period. If you signed up for direct deposit, you should get your payment in three days following your application. Otherwise, the government advises it could take about 10 days to receive the cheque.