On March 25, 2020, the federal government announced the passing of the $82 billion aid package by the House of Commons for a period of six months. An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19 (introduced as Bill C-13) was approved by the Senate and received royal assent the same day. The new law has several measures that impact the workplace including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which is part of the enacted Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act to authorize the making of income support payments to workers who suffer a loss of income for reasons related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
In the new law, to support workers and help businesses keep their employees, the government will establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This taxable benefit will provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB will be a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.
- workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits,
- workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
- parents with children who require care or supervision due to school closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not.
On April 1, 2020, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, along with the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, President of the Treasury Board, on behalf of the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, announced that Canadians will be able to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) as of April 6th at Canada.ca/coronavirus. The CERB is being jointly administered by Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency.
All eligible workers, whether or not they are eligible for Employment Insurance, will apply through a simplified application process. Applications will be accepted starting April 6, 2020. There is no waiting period and direct deposit payments will be delivered into accounts within three business days of applicants being eligible to receive it, and cheques within 10 days.
On April 6, 2020, additional details on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was released by the federal government.
In order to handle the expected volume of applications, the government is staggering the days workers can apply based on their month of birth. Applicants born in January, February or March can apply on Mondays starting April 6, 2020. Applicants born in April, May or June can apply on Tuesdays starting April 7, 2020. Applicants born in July, August or September can apply on Wednesdays starting April 8, 2020, and applicants born in October, November or December can apply on Thursdays starting April 9, 2020. Applicants can also apply, regardless of their month of birth, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Those who sign up to receive the CERB by direct deposit should receive the first CERB payment within 3-5 days of their application. For those who choose to receive the benefit by mail, payment should be received within 10 days of their application. Workers must re-apply and confirm their eligibility for the CERB every 4 weeks. The maximum CERB entitlement is up to 16 weeks. Details on when and how to apply for the CERB are available here.
To help more Canadians benefit from the CERB, on April 15, 2020, the government is announcing changes to the eligibility rules 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.
These changes will be retroactive to March 15, 2020. More details will be posted on the portal shortly.
As previously announced, on April 30, 2020, although already applicable, the federal government issued regulations (SOR/2020-88 and SOR/2020-89) to expand eligibility for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (the “CERB“) to include:
- those earning up to $1,000 per month;
- 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; and
- workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.
The expanded eligibility is retroactive to March 15, 2020.
On May 12, 2020, the federal government updated its Questions and Answers on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to specify that employers cannot use a supplemental unemployment benefit plan registered with Service Canada to top up CERB payments to employees. While eligible employees may earn up to $1,000 in income in each of their benefit periods from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020, while continuing to receive the CERB, any amounts received from any employer in excess of the $1,000 threshold would create an obligation for the employees to repay CERB amounts they received for the same benefit period.
On June 10, 2020, the federal government introduced Bill C-17 in the House of Commons. Among other things, if passed, the legislation would amend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to ensure individuals are no longer entitled to the CERB if they don’t return to work when recalled); and to create penalties for accessing the CERB on false or misleading pretences, or knowingly receiving the CERB when ineligible, up to a fine of $5,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment. As there was no opposition party support to “fast track” Bill C-17, it is unclear if, or when, any of the proposed legislative initiatives will become law.
On June 16, 2020, the federal government announced that it will be extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) eligibility period by eight weeks for recipients who can’t yet go back to work, as the coronavirus pandemic continues. This means those who will soon run out will have until the end of the summer to keep claiming the benefit while they try to find work.
The government continues to emphasize that it is looking for ways to incentivize returning to work when it is reasonable to do so rather than staying home and staying on the financial aid program, but Trudeau did not indicate during his Rideau Cottage address any major changes coming to the eligibility criteria or funding amount.
Trudeau said moving forward, the government is looking at “international best practices,” and will “monitor the economy and the progression of the virus to see what changes, if any, need to be made to the program so that more people are properly supported.” More details will be shared later this week, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Close to 1.2 million Canadians have dropped off the program before maxing out their 16-week eligibility, meaning they have either gone back to work or have been moved onto the wage subsidy program through their employer. As of June 4, the federal government has spent a total of $43.5 billion sending more than 8.4 million Canadians the $2,000 monthly payments.
July 6, 2020: The federal government has updated its Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) information to ensure that claimants understand that they need to be actively looking for work if they are able to return to work, if they want to continue receiving the CERB. The CRA may ask the claimant to provide information later to verify that he or she has been looking for work while receiving the CERB. It is important to keep track of his or her ongoing job search. Also, that a claimant may not refuse to return to work when it’s reasonable to do so.
If a claimant can’t find work due to COVID-19 and he or she continues to be eligible, that claimant may re-apply for the next CERB period. To keep receiving the CERB beyond a single 4-week period, the claimant must re-apply every 4 weeks up to a maximum of 6 periods (or 24 weeks in total) and continue to meet the eligibility criteria. This means an indivdidual can re-apply up to 5 times. The periods do not have to be consecutive. This also means that if a claimant started working again after he or she got the CERB, and then stopped working again in a later period, the claimant may be eligible to re-apply for the CERB. The re-application will be treated like a first-time application with first time eligibility criteria.
Periods start and end on specific dates.
Currently open for application:
Period 1 – March 15 to April 11 2020
Period 2 – April 12 to May 9, 2020
Period 3 – May 10 to June 6, 2020
Period 4 – June 7 to July 4, 2020
Period 5 – July 5 to August 1, 2020
Period 6 – August 2 to August 29, 2020
Period 7 – August 30 to September 26, 2020
Reminder, if an individual is eligible for the CERB, he or she can expect to get $2,000 ($500 per week) for the 4-week eligibility period he or she applied for.
The CERB with the CRA terminates after the claimant has received it for a maximum of 6 periods (24 weeks).
On July 8, 2020, the federal government filed two Interim Orders Amending the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefit):
- to correct and clarify that the provision of the new Emergency Response Benefit that is closely aligned with income support payments under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act. For EI claims established between March 15, 2020, and October 3, 2020, describes that claims for EI regular benefits and EI sickness benefits are considered as applications for the Emergency Response Benefit. These changes will allow for many claims to be processed quickly by simplifying the eligibility criteria and facilitating automation. This Interim Order is not making changes to EI maternity, parental, compassionate care, family caregiving or fishing benefits. The Interim Order is temporary in nature and will cease to have effect when it is repealed or expires; and
- to confirm the increase the maximum number of weeks for which the Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefit may be paid to a claimant from 16 to 24. The interim order also adds an explicit cessation of effect clause that applies to the provisions of this Interim Order as well as those in the four preceding interim orders that were made using the temporary authority provided to the Minister of Employment and Social Development under section 153.3 of the Employment Insurance Act. The effect of this clause is that all provisions made under these interim orders will cease to apply on the earlier of December 31, 2020, or the day on which the interim order that enacted the provision is repealed.