Applying for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)? 5 things you need to know today

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The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides temporary income support to those who have stopped working because of COVID-19, including those who are not eligible for EI, contract employees and freelancers.

  1. Who should apply?

    The benefit will be available to workers:

    • Living in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
    • Who have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their EI regular benefits or EI fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020;
    • Who had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and
    • Who have not quit their job voluntarily.

    Workers who after March 15, 2020 are eligible for EI or sickness benefits are also eligible for CERB (please see #5).

    If you are still not sure if you are eligible, answer the simple questions on the CERB Portal.

    UPDATE: To help more Canadians benefit from the CERB, the government expanded the access to the program. Eligibility rules were changed to:

    • Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.
    • Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
    • Extend the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.

    Read Expanding access to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and proposing a new wage boost for essential workers for more information.

    The Canada Student Response Benefit and revisions to the Canada Student Service Grant have recently been proposed to support students affected by COVID-19. Read about it here: Support for students and new grads affected by COVID-19

  2. What does “stopped working because of COVID-19” mean?

    Examples of this situation include but are not limited to the following:

    • You have been let go from your job or your hours have been reduced to zero;
    • You are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19;
    • You are away from work to take care of others because they are in quarantine, sick due to COVID-19; and/or
    • You are away from work to take care of children or other dependents whose care facility is closed due to COVID-19.

    You are not eligible for the CERB if you quit your job voluntarily.

  3. How much will I receive and when will I get the benefit?

    The CERB provides $500 a week for up to a maximum of 16 weeks. Benefits start within 10 days after submitting your application – in three to five days if you have direct deposit set up on your CRA My Account or within 10 days by mail if you prefer cheque payments. Your payments will be retroactive to your eligibility date.

  4. When and how do I apply?

    Applications are on-going until December 2, 2020. With the expected high volume of applications, the government implemented a staggered schedule. Here is when you should apply:

    Application schedule for CERB

    Note: If you have applied in April and have been receiving CERB, you may need to reapply to confirm your eligibility to receive the benefit for another four weeks. Renewal payments are not automatic.

    Two ways to apply:

    • By phone – Use the dedicated toll-free line at 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. This is an automated phone service. Get your SIN and postal code ready to verify your identity.
    • Online – Get started by going to the CERB page and answer the short Q&A to know if you’re eligible. You can also apply directly by signing into your CRA My Account. Click on the COVID 19: Canada Emergency Response Benefit banner on the top of the page. Select the period you want to apply for, declare that you qualify for CERB, and confirm that the government has the right payment information (make sure that your direct deposit or mailing information are accurate and up to date).

    These services are open 21 hours a day, seven days a week. They don’t accept applications from 3 am to 6 am ET for maintenance.

  5. I’ve applied for the EI. Do I need to reapply for CERB?

    No. If you’ve applied for EI since March 15, 2020, or if you currently receive EI benefits, you will be automatically enrolled to CERB.

Do you have questions? They may be answered here: Questions and answers on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
Article updated May 4, 2020.
Sources: Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Government of Canada; and Federal COVID-19 benefits program portal opens today: Here’s how to apply, CBC News. Accessed April 6, 2020.

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