The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

***This benefit replaced both the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit***

What is it?

On March 25, 2020 the Canada Emergency Response Act was enacted, and with it came these Canada Emergency Response Benefits which provide temporary income support in response to COVID-19. Designed to be a simple and accessible benefits program, these benefits can be applied for through Service Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency. This temporary income support provides broad coverage to assist workers who have been affected, directly or indirectly, by COVID-19 regardless of their eligibility for Employment Insurance.

How much can I get?

With the application process scheduled to open April 6, 2020, the CERB is a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months, available from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020, with payments being received every 4 weeks.. As it currently stands, recipients will always receive the fixed sum of $500 per week, regardless of what they may have otherwise been eligible to receive through Employment Insurance. (Compare this to Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits where you would receive 55% of your normal weekly earnings up to a maximum of $573/week.)

How do I apply?

Applications for the CERB opened April 6, 2020, for those who were born in January, February, or March. Those born in April, May, or June should apply on April 7, 2020; those born in July, August, or September should apply on April 8, 2020; and those born in October, November, or December should apply on April 9, 2020. Following this 4 day period, anyone born in any month may apply. For those who sign up for direct deposit, the funds should be available within 3 days of submitting your application, with payments being applied retroactively to your eligibility date up to and including March 15, 2020.

Who can apply for this?

If you are 15 years of age or older, residing in Canada, and you have earned at least $5,000 in income within the last 12 months either through employment income or self-employment income, and you have had to stop working for a period of at least 14 consecutive days within a one month period because of COVID-19, you would be eligible for these support payments.

This would include:

  • workers who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support;
  • workers who are sick, in self-isolation, quarantined or are taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19 (no medical documentation would be required);
  • working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures;
  • workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work; and
  • wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.

One notable exception would be workers who voluntarily quit their jobs. A worker who quit their employment voluntarily would likely be excluded from receiving these benefits.

What if I have already applied for, or would like to apply for Employment Insurance?

CERB is available to individuals, whether they are eligible for EI benefits or not. Any person currently receiving EI benefits would not be eligible for CERB unless that person’s EI benefits have come to an end (before October 2, 2020) and they continue to experience loss of income due to COVID-19. In the alternative, if a person has exhausted the 16-week period for CERB, they may be eligible to apply for EI benefits if they continue to experience loss of income.

Can my Employer top up my income if I’m receiving CERB?

Currently, the answer is no. However, it is important to remember that the programs and benefits that are currently in place are not stagnant and are constantly changing.

As governing bodies continue to respond to the influx of uncertainty it can be difficult to monitor and keep track of all the latest developments. We at PKF are committed to staying up to speed on this unprecedented situation, so you don’t have to. For more information on how COVID-19 may impact you or your business, please contact Stéphane Warnock or any other member of our team. We would be happy to help you navigate these challenges and assist you with any specific concerns you may have during this time of global uncertainty.