If you lost your job or cannot work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more help is on the way.
On Wednesday, the federal government passed a $107-billion emergency package, which included the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) designed to support people economically impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The hard truth is people are out of work because of this crisis and worried about what comes next. So I want you to know that we’ll be there to help you. Our government is doing everything we can to be there for you,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
The new benefit allows people to claim $2,000 a month for up to four months in emergency support. But how does it work? And do you qualify?
What is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?
The government previously announced two benefits in response to the pandemic. One was for those directly impacted by COVID-19 or caring for someone impacted by it, and one for people who lost their job as a result of the pandemic, but did not qualify for EI.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit announced Wednesday is an amalgamation of those two benefits.
The benefit is $2,000 a month for up to four months, directly paid to Canadians impacted by COVID-19, whether you are not working because you are sick, or you’ve been laid off or lost work hours because of the pandemic.
The CERB covers Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children because of school or daycare closures.
It also applies to anyone who was laid off and qualifies for EI. But unlike EI, it also applies to people who don’t, such as freelancers, contractors and people still technically employed but no longer receiving income due to the pandemic.
To qualify, applicants must have had $5,000 in employment income, self-employment income, or maternity or parental leave benefits for 2019 or in the 12-month period preceding the day they make the application.
So basically, it’s designed to fill any gaps left by existing income support programs when it comes to people who’ve lost work because of COVID-19.
What makes this different than employment insurance (EI)?
The EI system couldn’t handle the huge influx it experienced last week. Trudeau noted during his daily address Wednesday that nearly a million Canadians applied for EI in the past week, more than 10 times the previous one-week high.
“The EI system was not designed to process the unprecedented high volume of applications received in the past week. Given this situation, all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether they are EI-eligible or not, would be able to receive the CERB to ensure they have timely access to the income support they need,” said the government in a news release.
If you are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits, you will continue to receive your benefits and should not apply to the CERB. If your EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, you can apply for the CERB after your benefits end.
Canadians who are eligible for EI regular and sickness benefits would still be able to access their normal EI benefits, if still unemployed, after the 16-week period covered by the CERB.
For a refresher on how to apply for EI if you lost your job because of coronavirus, click here.
How do you apply?
Trudeau said Thursday that the application process will open through the Canada Revenue Agency “as soon as possible.”
You’ll be able to apply through the CRA MyAccount secure portal, your secure My Service Canada Account or over the phone.
If you’ve already applied for EI and your application hasn’t been processed yet, you’ll automatically be applied for the CERB instead.
When can you expect your first payment?
Trudeau said Thursday that the first payment will come within 10 days of applying for the CERB.
The CERB will be paid out in a $2,000 lump sum every four weeks, for up to 16 weeks.