Understanding Employment Insurance Benefits Amidst COVID-19

Do I qualify for Employment Insurance Benefits?

Applicants are encouraged to submit applications for benefits so that processing agents may determine eligibility. You may be entitled to Employment Insurance (“EI”) regular benefits if you: were employed in insurable employment; lost your job through no fault of your own; have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks; have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter; are ready, willing and capable of working each day; and are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them).

How many hours do I need to qualify?

The required number of insurable hours does vary depending on where the applicant resides. Manitoba has been divided into three EI districts. Currently, the minimum number of hours worked in the last 52 weeks (or since your last EI claim if you applied for EI within those 52 weeks) would be: For those residing in Winnipeg: Minimum of 700 hours. For those residing in Southern Manitoba: Minimum of 665 hours. For those residing in Northern Manitoba: Minimum of 420 hours. To put those numbers in perspective, 700 hours means you would have needed to work 17.5 weeks or about 4 months working 40 hours per week during the past year.

How long can I receive regular EI Benefits?

Once again, this will depend on what region the applicant resides in, and ranges anywhere from a minimum of 14 weeks up to a maximum of 45 weeks. The minimum number of weeks that eligible recipients will receive EI is as follows: If you live in Winnipeg: you will receive EI for a minimum of 14 weeks. If you live in Southern Manitoba: you will receive EI for a minimum of 15 weeks If you live In Northern Manitoba: you will receive EI for a minimum of 32 weeks Eligible EI recipients will continue to receive EI payments until the earlier of: All the weeks of entitled benefits have been received; The payment timeframe to which benefits can be received ends; The recipient stops filing bi-weekly reports; or A request is submitted to terminate the claim or to file a new claim. Anyone receiving EI benefits is obligated to notify Service Canada if they start working before their claim has come to an end.

How do I apply?

The simplest way is to submit an application online: Go to the Government of Canada website and search for Employment Insurance Regular Benefits.

Typically, the Record of Employment (“ROE”) will be submitted electronically by the employer. While an employer who submits the ROE is not under an obligation to provide same to the employee, the employee will want to confirm that the ROE has been submitted.

How long does it take to process?

Eligible applicants should receive benefits within 28 days of receiving all the required documents. Delays on the employer’s part in submitting the ROE can result in the employees benefits also being delayed. However, Service Canada will accept applications that are submitted before the ROE has been received. Therefore, all applicants can, and should, submit their applications as soon as possible. If for whatever reason you are not eligible to receive EI you will be notified either by phone or letter. Applicants who do not qualify for EI should refer to my article on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, to determine whether other temporary support benefits may be available.

Bi-Weekly Reports

Persons receiving EI will be required to submit reports every 2 weeks. These reports can be submitted through the governments “Internet Reporting Service”. In some circumstances it may be the Employer who submits these reports. Failure to submit bi weekly reports could result in a loss of benefits.

Can I get paid while receiving EI?

Those intending to work while receiving regular EI benefits will be able to keep 50 cents of EI benefits for every dollar earned up to 90 percent of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate the EI benefit amount. Once a person begins to earn more than 90% of their former weekly wage, their EI benefits will be reduced dollar for dollar the amount in excess of 90%.

What about other benefits?

a.  The EI Family Supplement

For those who:

  1. Currently have children under the age of 18;
  2. Are receiving the Canada Child Benefit; and
  3. Have a net family income that’s less than $25,921

You may be eligible for the EI Family Supplement. The supplement rate is based on a combination of the net family income and the number of children (and their ages).

Only one spouse can apply for these benefits (typically the spouse with the lower benefit rate). This is only available to those who have a family income under $25,921.

For those families with a yearly net family income less than $25,921, with children

b.  Canada Child Benefit

For those who are already receiving the Canada Child Benefit, you will now receive an additional $300 per child when the May CCB payment is issued. There is no need to apply, this will automatically be adjusted to those who are already receiving this benefit.

c.  EI Sickness Benefits

Available to anyone who is sick, quarantined, or self-isolating. No medical certificate would be required for these benefits, in fact when Bill C-13 was passed on March 25, 2020, it effectively eliminated every reference to provisions within the Employment Insurance Act that would have otherwise required such a medical certificate. Generally, the applicant will have needed to have worked at least 600 hours over the past 52 weeks. The normal one-week waiting period will be waived for those applicants who are self-isolating or quarantined.

These benefits would extend for a period of 15 weeks. Successful applicants would receive 55% of their former weekly earnings up to a maximum of $573/week. Further information on these benefits can be found by contacting the toll-free number 1-833-381-2725.

It is important to remember that the programs and benefits that are currently in place are not stagnant. 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 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.