Bob Zimmer: The scoop on Canada's Emergency Response Benefit

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The Government of Canada has now launched the application portal for the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit. A taxable benefit that was created to help Canadians during the COVID-19 crisis.

I know many of you who have been financially affected by COVID-19 have been looking for more information about this program. Below are answers to some of the questions my office has received in recent weeks about this new benefit.

If at any time you have questions or concerns about your individual situation, please call or email any of my offices. We are here to help you during this difficult time.

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What is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides temporary income support to workers who have stopped working and are without employment or self-employment income for reasons related to COVID-19 or to individuals who are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits. The new Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $500 per week. A maximum 16 weeks of benefits can be paid. This taxable benefit is available from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020. You can apply no later than December 2, 2020.

Who is eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

The benefit will be available to workers:

  • Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
  • Who have stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits;

  • Who had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and

  • Who are or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period. For subsequent benefit periods, they expect to have no employment or self-employment income.

The income of at least $5,000 may be from any or a combination of the following sources: employment and self-employment. For those who are not eligible for Employment Insurance you may also include maternity and parental benefits under the Employment Insurance program as part of the calculation for income.

Under what circumstances can I apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is available to those who stop working for reasons related to COVID-19. Examples of stopping to work could include but are not limited to:

  • You have been let go from your job or your hours have been reduced to zero;

  • You are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19;

  • You are away from work to take care of others because they are in quarantine, sick due to COVID-19; and/or

  • You are away from work to take care of children or other dependents whose care facility is closed due to COVID-19.

You can also apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit if you are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits.

You are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit if you quit your job voluntarily.

Eligibility periods are fixed in 4-week periods. If your situation continues, you can re-apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for multiple 4-week periods, to a maximum of 16 weeks (4 periods).

How do I know whether to apply for EI benefits or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

If you have stopped working because of COVID-19, you should apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, whether or not you are eligible for Employment Insurance. The Benefit is available for the period from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020.

Starting April 6, 2020, there will be a single portal to assist you with the application process. From this portal, you will then be guided through your responses to a few simple questions to complete the application best suited to you (i.e. eligibility for Employment Insurance benefits or not).

Canadians who are eligible for Employment Insurance and who have lost their job can continue to apply for Employment Insurance.

If you became eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits on March 15, 2020 or later, your claim will be automatically processed through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

For other EI benefits, including maternity, parental, caregiving, fishing and worksharing, you should also continue to apply.

Can I have other income while receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

You must have stopped working as a result of COVID-19 and be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days within the initial four-week period. This includes income from paid leave, self-employment income or collection of any Employment Insurance benefits.

For subsequent periods, you must expect to have no employment or self-employment income.

If I am already receiving Employment Insurance regular benefits, should I apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

No.

If you are already receiving Employment Insurance regular benefits, you will continue to receive these benefits until the end of your benefit period.

You cannot be paid Employment Insurance benefits and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for the same period.

I have applied for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits, but my claim hasn’t been processed yet, do I need to reapply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

No.

If you became eligible for Employment Insurance prior to March 15th, your claim will be processed under the pre-existing Employment Insurance rules.

If you became eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits March 15th or onward, your claim will be automatically processed through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

If I am on special benefits such as maternity/parental am I eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

It is expected that you will return to work when you are finished collecting maternity/parental or other special benefits under the Employment Insurance Program.

If work is not available as a result of reasons related to COVID-19 upon conclusion of your maternity/parental leave, you may be eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, provided you meet the eligibility requirements.

Do I need to be laid off to access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

No.

Workers who remain attached to their company can receive the Benefit, provided they have stopped working as a result of COVID-19, and expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days within the initial four-week period. For subsequent periods, you expect to have no employment income. They must also meet the other eligibility requirements.

You can also apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit if you are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits.

I am a student who is now unable to find a summer job, am I eligible?

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is only available to individuals who stopped work as a result of reasons related to COVID-19. If you are looking for a job but haven’t stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the Benefit.

For example, if you are a student who had a job last year and were planning on working this summer you do not qualify for the benefit.

How do I apply?

The online portal set up to assist with the application process can be found here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

You can also apply online through your CRA My Account or over the phone with an automated phone service at 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041.

More information on how to apply with CRA can be found here: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/benefits/apply-for-cerb-with-cra.html

The Government of Canada is also requesting that applications be staggered by birth month. If you were born January, February or March, apply on Mondays; April, May or June, apply on Tuesdays; July, August or September, apply on Wednesdays; October, November or December, apply on Thursdays; and any month, apply on Fridays and the weekend.

After you apply, you should get your payment in 3 business days if you signed up for direct deposit. If you haven’t, you should get it in about 10 business days.

I know there has been a lot of confusion and concern surrounding the eligibility of this program. We, as the Official Opposition, have repeatedly questioned the Liberal government in order to get answers for Canadians struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to press the Liberals so that Canadians get the help they need.

Bob Zimmer is Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.

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