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Nelligan Law gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Melanie Sutton, Student-at-law, in writing this blog post.

This blog was updated April 15th to reflect expanded eligibility for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit announced by the Canadian government.

During this unprecedented pandemic, many Canadians are facing economic challenges as a result of requiring unpaid time off work to care for their children or to self-isolate/quarantine. Many Canadians have been laid off or have lost their job.

On March 25, 2020, the federal government announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This program is intended to provide assistance to Canadians who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. The federal government has indicated this will include people who are unable to work because they:

  • have been laid off or lost their job;
  • are sick or quarantined/self-isolating; or
  • are required to stay home to care for children or other family members who are sick or home due to school or day care closures.

    The CERB is designed to assist as many people as possible, including those who would not otherwise qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

Who is eligible for the CERB?

The CERB is designed to assist as many people as possible, including those who would not otherwise qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. You are eligible to claim the CERB if you are at least 15 years old, resident in Canada, and have earned at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the past 12 months from one or more of the following sources:

  • employment;
  • self-employment;
  • maternity and/or parental leave EI benefits; and
  • benefits paid under a provincial plan because of pregnancy and/or care of a new-born child or a child placed in their care for the purposes of adoption.

On April 15th, the government expanded the eligibility criteria for CERB to include:

  • those who are still working but earning $1,000/month or less
  • those who have exhausted their EI benefits recently
  • those who were expecting seasonal work that is now not available
  • artists – those who weren’t working before and are struggling to bring in income will now be eligible

Under what circumstances can I claim the CERB?

The CERB provides a form of income replacement for those who meet the eligibility requirements.

  • you have ceased working for a reason related to COVID-19;
  • you do not work for at least 14 consecutive days; and
  • you do not receive income from either employment or other benefits.

Importantly, if you quit your job voluntarily, you will not be entitled to claim the CERB.

How much money will I get from the CERB?

The CERB is not an income-dependent benefit. Everyone who is eligible for the benefit will receive $2,000 per month for up to four months. Entitlement will be determined one month at a time.

As with EI benefits, income received from the CERB will be taxable as an income replacement benefit.

How do I apply?

The CERB is being jointly delivered by Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency. If you were otherwise entitled to EI, please visit the following site to apply through Service Canada  If you were self-employed or did not accumulate enough EI eligible hours (i.e. 600 hrs in the last 52 weeks), then please apply through CRA. Elect for direct deposit in order to receive your benefit faster. Please do not apply through both portals. If you have, you will likely receive two cheques. Service Canada has already released a statement that they will be requesting repayment of this money. And don’t forget—this is a taxable benefit that is not taxed immediately. So put a little money aside if you can in order to repay the taxes next year.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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