Written by Carl Cunningham, Sara Parchello, Jordan Fremont, Amanda McLachlan and Archana Ravichandradeva
On April 1, 2020, the Canadian government announced further details of the previously announced Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), including updated information about how applicants can apply for benefits. The following provides an update to our previous blog on the CERB, An Overview of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit in Respect of COVID-19 Employment Disruptions.
As a Recap—What Is the CERB?
The CERB provides a taxable benefit payable to eligible individuals, to be paid once per four-week period, up to a maximum of 16 weeks in the period between March 15, 2020, and October 3, 2020.
To be eligible, an individual must:
- have stopped work as a result of reasons related to COVID-19 and reside in Canada;
- be at least 15 years old;
- have had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and
- expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period (and expect to have no employment income in subsequent benefit periods).
The CERB is also available to individuals who, after March 15, are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) regular or sickness benefits.
What Are the New Changes to the Program?
Application portal: Applications for CERB will be available starting April 6, 2020, through the online portal at canada.ca/coronavirus. Applicants who would generally qualify for EI will be directed to use Appliweb through Service Canada while applicants that would not normally qualify for EI benefits will be directed to use CRA's MyAccount to apply. Applicants may also call the toll-free helpline at 1-800-959-2019. Applicants will need to affirm that they meet the eligibility criteria, however the information provided in support of the application may be verified at a later time.
When to apply: As the website may become overloaded during the initial application period, the Canadian government has requested that applicants stagger their applications based on birth month and in accordance with the schedule below.
- January to March: apply on April 6
- April to June: apply on April 7
- July to September: apply on April 8
- October to December: apply on April 9
The date of the application will not affect when or how much of the benefit the worker will receive. Applications for CERB must be submitted prior to December 2, 2020.
Accessing funds: No waiting period applies to the CERB. Qualifying applicants will be able to receive CERB payments within 10 days of an approved application. Those who have signed up for direct deposit can expect to receive their funds within 3-5 business days of becoming eligible to receive the benefit, and otherwise cheques should be received within 10 days.
Eligibility criteria: In addition to being residents of Canada, applicants must have a valid Social Insurance Number. Temporary foreign workers and international students may also be eligible to receive the CERB if they meet the other eligibility requirements.
Maintaining eligibility: CERB recipients may file for a subsequent 4-week period, provided they were without employment or self-employment income for the period in which the previous benefit was claimed, and they expect that they will not receive any employment or self-employment income in the subsequent 4-week benefit period being applied for.
Taxation: The CERB is taxable in the hands of recipients. However, taxes will not be deducted from the CERB at source; recipients will be expected to report the CERB as income when filing their income tax returns for the 2020 tax year.
Interaction between CERB and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy: Workers who are receiving income from their employers pursuant to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will not qualify for CERB benefits.
Interaction with EI:
- Individuals who have made claims for EI that have not been processed will not have to reapply for the CERB. Their applications will automatically roll-over to the CERB.
- Individuals who became eligible for EI prior to March 15, 2020, will be processed under EI, through the pre-existing rules.
- Claims filed by individuals who become eligible for EI sickness benefits or EI regular benefits on or after March 15, 2020, will be processed under the CERB.
- Individuals who have access to the CERB will be paid $2,000 for every 4-week period ($500/week) regardless of the amount they may have been eligible to receive through EI.
- Individuals retain their EI eligibility after they stop receiving and/or exhaust the CERB. Prior receipt of the CERB will not impact their EI entitlement.
We will provide updates with any additional CERB information that is made available. If your business or organization has questions in respect of the CERB or other employment-related matters, please contact a member of the Bennett Jones Employment Services group. In addition, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre for other COVID-19-related materials.