Q: What is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?
On March 25th 2020, the federal government announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to help Canadians facing undue hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The CERB is a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.
The CERB is a taxable benefit that provides $500 per week, for up to 16 weeks, for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As of April 15th, Canadians who make less than $1,000 a month due to reduced work hours now qualify for the CERB. In addition, seasonal workers and those who have recently run out of employment insurance are eligible for CERB.
As of April 15th, 2020, the criteria for eligibility is:
- Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
- Who have stopped working because of COVID-19 and have not voluntarily quit their job or are eligible for EI 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.
Q: Should I apply for EI or CERB?
A: The most frequent question Canadians are asking is whether they should be applying for Employment Insurance (EI) or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). When determining which program is best for you it is important to keep in mind:
- If you lost your source of income after March 15th your application will currently be processed through the CERB regardless of your eligibility for EI.
- If you’re self-employed, or otherwise ineligible for EI, apply for the CERB through the CRA.
- For other EI benefits, including maternity, parental, caregiving, fishing and worksharing, you should also continue to apply for EI.
Q: I’m having trouble reaching Service Canada, what should I do?
A: There are currently hundreds of thousands of Canadians attempting to contact Service Canada. Current wait times for inquiries made even from MP’s offices are significantly higher than normal so if you require a rapid response please use the following:
- If you are applying for the CERB and need additional support, you can reach an agent at 1-833-699-0299
- For other inquiries, please fill out a Service Canada request form and they will contact you directly. The form is located here: https://www.canada.ca/service-canada-e-service
You can find answers to many more important financial questions at: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application/questions.html