Earlier today, as part of the Federal Government’s Emergency Response Plan to the COVID-19 outbreak, a change was announced to the previously unveiled Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.

The Federal Government has combined these two previously announced benefits into a single benefit, referred to as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), to provide workers with a simpler and more accessible income support benefit. The CERB will provide workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic with a $2,000 payment every four-weeks for a period of up to 16 weeks, and will be available from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020. Specifically, the CERB will be available to workers in Canada who:

  • must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to a paid leave or other income support;
  • are quarantined, sick or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
  • are working parents that must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures;
  • still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work; or
  • are wage-earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.

A worker is eligible for the CERB if they ceased working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period in respect of which they apply and if during that 14-day period the employee was not in receipt of income from employment or self-employment, Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, or allowances, money or other benefits paid to workers under a provincial plan due to pregnancy or parental leave. A worker is not eligible for the CERB if they quit their employment voluntarily.

The Federal Government has confirmed that workers who are not currently in receipt of EI benefits, whether they are EI-eligible or not, will be able to apply for and receive the CERB. However, Canadians who are already receiving EI regular benefits or EI sickness benefits will continue to receive their benefits and should not apply for the CERB. If their EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, then employees can still apply for the CERB once their EI benefits ease if they are still not able to return to work due to COVID-19. Canadians not currently in receipt of EI benefits who apply for the CERB and who are otherwise eligible for EI regular and EI sickness benefits would still be able to access their normal EI benefits, if still unemployed, after the 16-week period covered by the CERB. 

Application details for the CERB will be available through the CRA and Service Canada website beginning the first week of April. According to the Federal Government, workers can expect to receive their payments within 10 days of submitting their application. The Federal Government’s New Release on the new CERB is available here.