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COVID-19 Update: Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

A number of different support programs have been launched in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article serves to provide an overview of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) specifically.

What is the CERB?

The CERB is a taxable benefit that will be available from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020. The last day to apply for said benefits will be December 2, 2020.

The benefit amount is $2,000 per month, equivalent to $500 per week. A maximum of 16 weeks of benefits (or $8,000) can be received by each eligible individual.

Benefits are expected to start within 10 days of your application submission. Benefits will be paid retroactively to your eligibility date, and will be made through direct deposit (if you have that set up already with the CRA) or via cheque.

As always, direct deposit will ensure you receive your funds the quickest. If you have your CRA MyAccount already set up, you can manage your direct deposit information there. You can also contact the CRA to set up direct deposit via these other setup methods found here.

Who is eligible for this benefit?

The CERB benefit is available to individual workers who:

  • Reside in Canada,
  • Are at least 15 years of age,
  • Have had to stop working because of COVID-19, or are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) regular or sickness benefits,
  • Had worldwide income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of applicable. Income can be from employment (wages or paid leave), self-employment (sole-proprietor), or maternity and parental benefits under the EI program or similar Quebec Parental Insurance Plan, and
  • Have to be or expected to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period (March 15, 2020 through April 11, 2020), and no employment income for subsequent benefit periods.

Even if you are eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits, you are still able to apply for the CERB benefits.

However, you cannot be paid EI benefits and the CERB benefits for the same period. As such, if you are already receiving EI benefits, you will continue to receive these EI benefits until the end of your benefit period. If your EI benefits started before March 15, 2020 and end before October 3, 2020, you can apply for the CERB benefits after that period if you meet all the CERB requirements.

If you had applied for EI benefits on March 15, 2020 or later, your claim will automatically be processed through the CERB program. You do not need to re-apply.

You also do not have to be a Canadian Citizen or a Canadian Permanent Resident. Temporary foreign workers and international students may also be eligible for the CERB benefits if they meet all the eligibility requirements. You must reside in Canada and have a valid Social Insurance Number.

What constitutes “stopped working because of COVID-19”?

Examples of stopping work because of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

  • You have been let go from your job because of COVID-19,
  • You have not officially been laid off or let go from your job, but your work hours have been reduced to zero,
  • You are in quarantine,
  • You are sick because of COVID-19,
  • You are away from work to take care of others that are in quarantine,
  • You are away from work to take care of others that are sick due to COVID-19, or
  • You are away from work to take care of children or other dependents whose care facility is closed due to COVID-19.

You cannot quit your job voluntarily to try and qualify for the CERB benefit.

How do I apply for the CERB?

Starting April 6, 2020 applicants will be able to apply for the benefit using an online application.

You will not have to provide a medical certificate. You will need to provide your personal contact information, your Social Insurance Number, and confirm that you meet the eligibility requirements.

Note that the CRA may ask you to provide additional documentation to verify your eligibility at a future date. As such, it is very important that you can clearly prove that you meet the eligibility requirements in order to avoid any potential penalties for accessing benefits you may not have been entitled to.

Where can I find more information?

A number of different news sources are posting information on the CERB and the other benefits. Please also watch our blog for more posts, as well as our social media channels.

The link to the Canada Revenue Agency’s page on the CERB can also be found here.

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