COVID-19: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit

As the effects of COVID-19 continue to manifest, the Government of Canada continues to unveil new programs to assist those impacted by the downturn of economic activity.

On March 25, 2020, the Federal Government of Canada revealed the details of the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) which is set to replace the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit. The CERB will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000.00 a month for up to six months for those impacted by COVID-19.

Update: CERB was expanded to include (a) workers earning less than $1000/month; (b) seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19; and (c) workers who exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.

Who is eligible?

The following people are eligible for CERB payments:

  1. workers who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
  2. workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  3. working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
  4. wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.
  5. workers who earn up to $1,000 per month.
  6. seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19.
  7. workers who exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.

Additionally, employees who are still employed but were asked not to attend work due to the downtown in business caused by COVID-19, will also be eligible to qualify for CERB. The applicability of CERB to this specific sub-set of Canadians will assist businesses in keeping their employees during the downturn in work activity which will ensure that the businesses can quickly and efficiently resume operations as soon as doing so becomes possible.

What are the next steps?

The portal for applications for CERB payments is available. The Government anticipates that individuals will begin receiving CERB payments within 10 days of submitting their application and will continue to receive CERB payments every four weeks for up to 24 weeks. The CERB program is available from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020.

Update: On June 16, 2020, the Federal Government announced that CERB payments would be extended for a further two months.

What if my employees are eligible for or receiving EI benefits?

All Canadians who have ceased working as a result of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, whether or not they are Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits eligible, are able to apply for and receive CERB.

If an employee is already receiving EI benefits as of March 25, 2020, then they will continue to receive those benefits and should not apply for CERB. If that specific employee’s benefits end before October 3, 2020 (the end date of the CERB program) then, if they are still unable to work as a result of COVID-19, they may apply for CERB after their EI benefits cease. Additionally, if Canadians who are eligible for EI benefits remain unemployed after receiving their 24 weeks of CERB payments, they are still able to apply for and access the normal EI benefits.

This article will be updated as further information becomes available.

Read more EKB Updates about the legal implications of COVID-19 and the impact on B.C. business

Related Practices