In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has created the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). In this article, I briefly explain the benefit, how to know if you qualify, and some of the other options you may have.
What is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is a taxable government payment to support those who have lost income due to COVID-19. It pays $2,000 a month for a maximum of 4 months to those who qualify.
This benefit will be available with retroactive payments going back to March 15, and future monthly payments available until October 3, 2020.
How do you qualify?
The benefit is only available to Canadian residents who are 15 or older and have had income of at least $5000 in 2019 or the 12 months before applying. This income can be from employment, self-employment, maternity or parental leave benefits, or a combination of any of these.
To qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, you must be a worker in one of the following situations:
- You had to stop working due to COVID-19 and don’t have paid leave or other income support
- You are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19
- You are a working parent who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick, or who are home because of school/daycare closures
- You are still employed but not being paid because there isn’t sufficient work and you’ve been asked to stay home
- You are a wage earner or self-employed individual who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for EI
- You are a contract worker who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for EI
As of April 15, you must not be receiving more than $1000 of income from employment or self-employment for 14 consecutive days during the 4-week period for which you apply.
How to apply
The web portal is accessible online through the Canada Revenue Agency.
You can also call one of the following phone numbers to apply through an automated service: 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041
When you call, you must have your Social Insurance Number (SIN) ready, as well as your postal code.
To make the application process go a bit smoother, the CRA has created a schedule of when to apply based on your birth month:
- January, February, and March birthdays should apply on Mondays (starting April 6).
- April, May, and June birthdays should apply on Tuesdays (starting April 7).
- July, August, and September birthdays should apply on Wednesdays (starting April 8).
- October, November, or December birthdays should apply on Thursdays (starting April 9).
- Anybody can apply on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
There has been a bit of confusion about this. You must reapply for the benefit for each 4-week eligibility period that you wish to receive it in. Your first application doesn’t automatically carry over.
When you apply (or reapply) for the benefit, you must be under the $1000 income maximum for at least 14 days in a row out of the 4-week period you’re applying for. For reference, the eligibility periods are as follows:
- March 15 – April 11
- April 12 – May 9
- May 10 – June 6
- June 7 – July 4
- July 5 – August 1
- August 2 – August 29
- August 30 – September 26
I already applied for EI — what now?
If you applied for EI after March 15th and your application hasn’t been processed, it will automatically be processed as a CERB application; you do not need to reapply for the new benefit. If you’ve been approved for EI and are already receiving income, you’re not eligible to receive CERB.
If your EI benefit period ends before October 3, 2020, you can apply and receive CERB if you’re eligible.
Should I apply for CERB or something else?
If you have lost your income because of COVID-19, you have a couple of options, depending on your situation:
- First, check if you have paid sick leave through your employer that you can use. In most cases you must actually be sick with the virus to use this — there are usually no “quarantine” clauses in the policy.
- If you became eligible for EI before March 15, 2020: Apply for EI.
For more information, on EI eligibility for coronavirus, read our article: COVID-19: Can I get EI sickness benefits?
- If you became eligible for EI after March 15, 2020: Apply for CERB.
For more information, we’re keeping our COVID-19, Sick Leave, and Disability Benefits page updated.
Please note: As the information surrounding COVID-19 is changing quickly, this article may be updated.