How to apply for EI and Canada's coronavirus emergency fund

Mar 19 2020, 2:56 pm

Canada is expanding Employment Insurance (EI) coverage and creating a COVID-19 emergency fund to help individuals who have been laid off or unable to work because of the global pandemic.

Canadians who are quarantined can apply for EI sickness benefits and receive 15 weeks of income replacement, according to the Government of Canada’s website.

“Many of you are worried — about your jobs, about paying the bills, about taking care of your kids,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

Normally, EI covers sick leave, parental leave, caregiving leave, seasonal workers such as fishers, and people who have lost their job through no fault of their own. The program restrictions on who can qualify. For example, you need to have worked a minimum number of hours in the last year in order to receive benefits.

Canada is loosening several aspects of the EI application process during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • The one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits has been waived for new applicants who are quarantined
  • There will be a dedicated toll-free number for coronavirus EI questions, although the number hasn’t been announced yet
  • People claiming EI sickness benefits because they’re quarantined will not have to provide a medical certificate
  • People who can’t complete the application process because they’re sick or quarantined can submit the documents later and backdate their claim to be paid for the entire time

As usual, EI sickness benefits pay individuals 55% of their pre-illness earnings up to a maximum of $573 per week.

How to apply for EI

Step 1: Apply online

You should apply online via Service Canada as soon as you find out you’ll be out of work.

Apparently the system is having trouble because so many people are trying to access it. A message from the government says they’re working to resolve that.

EI benefits

EI application notice

You’ll need several documents and pieces of information to apply:

  • Your SIN number
  • Record of Employment forms from all the jobs you had in the last year
    • Your employer must provide this document by law
    • Don’t worry if you didn’t receive a paper copy — many employers submit them directly to Service Canada, so you’ll see them in the portal once you begin your application
  • Banking information to receive payment by direct deposit
  • Your address
  • Your mother’s maiden name

Step 2: Receive access code in the mail

After you submit your application, a benefit statement including a four-digit access code should come by snail mail. Use this code and your SIN to log into your My Service Canada Account.

Step 3: Login and complete bi-weekly reports 

Inside the My Service Canada portal, you’ll submit reports every two weeks. They’re fairly simple, and include questions like whether you’ve left the country or if you’ve had any short-term work.

Based on your ROEs and reports, the government will decide whether you’re eligible for benefits in every two-week period and how much.

Not eligible for EI? Try Canada’s new Emergency Care Benefit

This new benefit is a flat $900 payment every two weeks for Canadians affected by coronavirus who don’t qualify for EI. It’s meant to help:

  • Workers and self-employed people who are quarantined or sick with coronavirus
  • People who need to take time off to care for a family member who’s sick with coronavirus
  • Parents with children who need to take time off to supervise them because of school and daycare closures

“If you fall ill or have to self-isolate, but you don’t qualify for EI or have access to sick leave, we’ll be putting money in your pocket every two weeks,” Trudeau said.

This benefit will be available starting in April, and it’s being distributed by the Canada Revenue Agency. Canadians can access it through their Service Canada or CRA account online, and will need to prove they meet the eligibility criteria.

With coronavirus on the rise, Health Canada is reminding individuals who attend events and large gatherings to monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. And if you’re not feeling well, they recommend staying home at this time. Also, due to unexpected cancellations, please check the event you plan to attend is still taking place. Keep up with COVID-19 news here.

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