Everything you need to know about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Apr 2 2020, 4:18 pm

Canada’s federal government has directed $24 billion toward a new benefit that gives money straight to citizens who’ve lost employment because of COVID-19.

It’s called the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and pays up to $2,000 per month for four months. There are looser restrictions to apply for it compared to Employment Insurance (EI), which is the standard route for laid-off workers to receive government assistance.

Applications for the CERB open on April 6 at canada.ca/coronavirus.

Should I apply for EI or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canadians can either collect EI or the CERB, not both.

EI can pay slightly more than the CERB, but only if your income was fairly high to begin with. EI pays 55% of the average wage you earned in the last year before applying, and maxes out at $573 per week ($2,292 per month).

The CERB pays slightly less than the maximum EI amount, giving out $500 per week ($2,000 per month).

If you’re eligible for EI (which is stricter than the CERB), and 55% of your earnings works out to more than $500 per week, EI is your best bet.

Otherwise, the CERB is best for you.

According to Quebec MP Jean-Yves Duclos, people who applied for EI after March 15 do not need to apply for the CERB. Their EI application will be directly transferred to the CERB program.

Who is eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit? 

Workers who live in Canada and are 15 years old or older are eligible to apply. They must also meet the following criteria:

  • Made more than $5,000 in 2019
  • Are out of work due to COVID-19

The benefit was designed to help people not normally eligible for EI, such as workers who don’t have access to paid sick leave or other income support and self-employed people.

People who have to stop working because they’re sick or quarantined are eligible, and so are people who can’t work because they need to take care of a sick child.

The benefit is also available to people who remain employed but aren’t being paid because they’ve been told not to come to work.

How do I apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

Applications open on April 6, and you can apply through Service Canada if you have an account there from setting up EI in the past, or you can apply through the Canada Revenue Agency.

Applicants will be asked a serious of questions in a streamlined application process, according to the government’s backgrounder.

There’s also a dedicated toll-free line for applicants with CERB questions: 1-800-959-2019.

The benefit is available from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020. You must apply by December 2, 2020 to receive it.

Similar to EI, you must log back in periodically to tell the government whether you’re still unemployed.

When will I get the money?

Once applications open on April 6, the government says Canadians should receive direct deposit payments within five business days and should receive cheques within 10 business days.

“We are working to ensure every Canadian gets the money they need as quickly as possible,” Duclos said in a news release.

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