On March 25, 2020, the federal COVID-19 Emergency Response Act (the “Act)” received royal assent. In addition to other measures, this Act enacts legislation to establish the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). We previously reported on the CERB benefit in yesterday’s blog post, available here.
The CERB is designed to provide income support to eligible workers, and it is separate from the Employment Insurance (EI) regime. Eligible workers can apply for the CERB for any four-week period that falls within March 15, 2020 and October 3, 2020.
Workers Eligible for CERB
The CERB is available to employees and self-employed workers who:
- are at least 15 years of age and a resident in Canada;
- have earned a total income of at least $5,000.00 or more in 2019 or the 12 months prior to their application for the CERB from any of the following sources:
- self employment;
- from pregnancy or parental EI benefits; or,
- from pregnancy or parental benefits under a provincial plan;
- cease working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period in which they apply for the CERB payment; and
- do not receive, in respect of those 14 consecutive days:
- income from employment or self-employment;
- EI benefits;
- pregnancy or parental benefits under a provincial plan; or,
- any other income that is prescribed by regulation. (At this time, there are no regulations specifying any other disqualifying income sources).
The Act states that workers who voluntarily quit their employment will not be considered to have “cease[d] working for reasons related to COVID-19” and may be ineligible for the CERB.
Further, the federal government’s COVID-19 website (accessible here) indicates the CERB is available to:
- workers who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support;
- workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
- workers who must stay home without pay to care for their children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures;
- workers who are still employed but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work; and,
- wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for EI.
Therefore the CERB will likely be available to Ontario workers who are unable to work because of the Ontario government’s Order to close all non-essential workplaces on March 23, 2019, which we previously discussed here.
Amount of CERB Benefit
The Act indicates that the amount of the CERB benefit will be specified in the regulations, but there are no regulations at this time. However, the federal government’s COVID-19 website indicates the CERB is $2,000.00 per month for a maximum of 16 weeks. The CERB is taxable income.
Workers Who Already Applied for EI
In our previous blog post on CERB, we reported that the federal government’s news release on the CERB stated that workers who are already receiving regular EI and sickness benefits as of March 25, 2020 will continue to receive those benefits. Therefore, those workers should not apply for the CERB.
The federal government also indicated that workers who have applied for EI benefits whose application has not yet been processed do not need to reapply. It is unclear whether those applications will be automatically considered for the CERB instead of EI, if the EI application is still not processed.
How to Apply for CERB
Prime Minister Trudeau announced on March 26, 2020 that the online portal for accessing the CERB will be made available on April 6, 2020. Applicants are to start receiving their CERB payments within 10 days of their application.
The CERB is to be paid every four (4) weeks and will be available from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020. The federal government has suggested that workers who are eligible for regular EI and sickness benefits will still be able to access their normal EI benefits if they are still unemployed after their CERB payments end.
Guidelines on how to apply for the CERB have not yet been released.
Our firm will continue to provide you with updates as the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.