UPDATED: What you need to know to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Applications opened April 6 for $2,000 monthly benefit for workers who have stopped working and have no income because of COVID-19

Debt graphic

If you’ve stopped working and have lost your income because of COVID-19, you can apply for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) starting on Monday, April 6th.

CERB provides temporary income support to workers who have stopped working and are without employment income, or self-employment income, for reasons related to COVID-19.

CERB is for everyone who has lost their income because of COVID-19 — people who have to stay at home, restaurant workers, freelancers, creative workers like musicians and artists, and more. It replaces the Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit previously announced on Wednesday, March 18th as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 economic response plan.

Here’s everything you need to know about CERB, including how much you will get, whether you qualify, how and when to apply, and more.

 

How much do I get and when?

CERB is paid in the amount of $2,000 (equivalent to $500 per week) in fixed blocks of four-week periods. You can receive a maximum of 16 weeks of benefits, up to $8,000 over four months. While the four months do not necessarily have to be consecutive, for most workers they probably will be. You apply every month that you need CERB, up to a maximum of four months.

After you apply for CERB, you receive a lump sum payment of $2,000 to cover a four-week benefit period. You will need to budget this lump sum over the month, as you cannot apply for additional benefits until the next four-week benefit period.

Important note: you have to apply and confirm your eligibility for each four-week period you are eligible for CERB, up to a maximum of four four-week periods. For example, if you apply in April and still need CERB in May, you will need to apply again for CERB in May.

 

Who is eligible?

Anyone who has lost their employment income or self-employment income because they have stopped working due to COVID-19 is eligible for CERB. The benefit is available to all workers who are Canadian residents, at least 15 years old, who have stopped working because of COVID-19.

You must have earned at least $5,000 in income in either the past 12 months or in all of 2019.

The income may be from any (or a combination of) employment income, self-employment income, or maternity and parental benefits under the employment insurance program (EI). The income does not have to have been earned in Canada, but you must reside in Canada.

For example, if you have been let go from your job or your hours have been reduced to zero because of COVID-19, you are eligible. If you have stopped working because you are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19, or if you have stopped working because you are taking care of others because they are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19, you are eligible. If you have stopped working because you have to take care of children or other dependants because of COVID-19, you are eligible. But only if you aren’t receiving any income — if you are being paid by your employer while you are at home, you are not eligible.

If you are already receiving EI benefits, you are also not eligible for CERB. However, if you have stopped working because of COVID-19 and are eligible for EI but haven’t yet applied for EI, you can apply for CERB instead. In fact, the federal government is encouraging workers to apply for CERB rather than EI, as the EI system was not designed to process the unprecedented volume of applications caused by COVID-19.

If you have already applied for EI but your claim has not been processed yet, you will receive EI regular or sickness benefits if you became eligible for EI prior to March 15th. If you became eligible for EI on or after March 15th, your EI claim will be processed as a CERB application instead, and you will receive the CERB amount regardless of what you may have been entitled to under EI.

If you have been paid EI regular benefits for at least one week of benefits since December 29, 2019 and have used up your entitlement to those benefits, you are elgiible for CERB.

If you are still employed but are no longer receiving income because of disruptions to your work situation due to COVID-19, you are also eligible for CERB. For example, if your employer is protecting your job and expects you will return to work at some point, but is not paying you, you are eligible for CERB.

When you apply to CERB for the very first time, you must have stopped (or will stop working) for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week benefit period for which you are applying, and have received (or expect to receive) no more than $1,000 in combined employment or self-employment income for these consecutive days.

For any additional four-week benefit period you apply for, you continue to not work (and expect to remain in this position) for the entire four week period for which you are applying, and expect to receive no more than $1,000 in combined employment or self-employment income.

As long as you meet the other eligibility criteria, you will not be disqualified for CERB for having non-employment income. You can receive income from non-employment sources while on CERB, including temporary provincial income support, social assistance, workers’ compensation, or pension income. However, you can’t receive any income from employment or self-employment.

Workers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents — including temporary foreign workers and international students — may be eligible to receive CERB if they meet the other eligibility requirements.

 

Who is NOT eligible?

If you are looking for a job but haven’t stopped working because of COVID-19, you are ineligible for CERB. 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. You must have been receiving employment income or self-employment income that stopped because of COVID-19.

If you are already receiving EI benefits, you are ineligible for CERB. However, if your EI benefits end before October 3, 2020 and you meet the eligibility requirements (including that you stopped work because of COVID-19), you can apply for CERB when your EI benefits end.

If you have already applied for EI and became eligible for EI benefits on or after March 15th, your EI claim will be processed as a CERB application instead, and you will receive the CERB amount regardless of what you may have been entitled to under EI.

If you are on paid sick leave (receiving full or partial employment income), you are not eligible for CERB.

If you are on special benefits such as maternity or parental leave, you are ineligible for CERB. However, if work is unavailable due to COVID-19 upon conclusion of your maternity or parental leave, you may be eligible to apply for CERB.

 

Can I have any other income?

On April 15, 2020, the federal government expanded the eligibility criteria for CERB to allow people to remain eligible even if they are earning up to $1,000 a month in employment or self-employment income. This expansion allows freelancers, gig workers, part-time workers and others to still earn some income without making them ineligible for the benefit.

When you apply to CERB for the very first time, you must have stopped (or will stop working) for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week benefit period for which you are applying, and have received (or expect to receive) no more than $1,000 in combined employment or self-employment income for these consecutive days.

For any additional four-week benefit period you apply for, you continue to not work (and expect to remain in this position) for the entire four week period for which you are applying, and expect to receive no more than $1,000 in combined employment or self-employment income.

As long as you meet the other eligibility criteria, you can also receive non-employment income and still be eligible for CERB. You can receive income from non-employment sources while on CERB, including temporary provincial income support, social assistance, workers’ compensation, or pension income.

 

How do I apply?

You can apply for CERB online or by using a toll-free automated phone line.

You apply online using your Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) account (“My Account”). Before applying, make sure your direct deposit and mailing information is up to date with CRA.

If you don’t have a CRA My Account but you do have a My Service Canada Account, you can sign into CRA using your My Service Canada Account.

If you don’t have either, you can register for a CRA My Account.

You need a CRA account to apply online but, if you do not have a CRA account, you can apply by phone by calling the automated toll-free line at 1-800-959-2019. You will be prompted to enter your social insurance number (SIN) and your postal code to verify your identity, as well as the period for which you are applying.

Both the online and phone services will be available 21 hours a day, seven days a week. They will be closed from 3 to 6 a.m. EDT for maintenance.

CRA will issue payments by direct deposit or cheque, based on the payment method CRA has on file for you. There is no waiting period. Direct deposits will be issued within three business days from the day you submitted your application, with cheques issued within 10 business days from the day you submitted your application. Payments will be retroactive to your eligibility date.

Important note: you have to apply and confirm your eligibility for each four-week period you are eligible for CERB, up to a maximum of four four-week periods. For example, if you apply in April and still need CERB in May, you will need to apply again in May.

If you want to apply online, the federal government recommends that you get ready before applying by logging into your CRA My Account. Check to make sure your mailing address is up to date and, if you want to receive direct deposit, that your banking information is available and current.

 

On what day should I apply?

Whether you apply for CERB online or by phone, in order to manage service requests, CRA has set up specific days when you should apply, which are based on your month of birth:

  • If you were born in January, February, or March, apply for CERB on Mondays, with the first application date on April 6th
  • If you were born in April, May, or June, apply for CERB on Tuesdays, with the first application date on April 7th
  • If you were born in July, August, or September, apply for CERB on Wednesdays, with the first application date on April 8th
  • If you were born in October, November, or December, apply for CERB on Thursdays, with the first application date on April 9th

You can also apply on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays regardless of your month of birth.

 

Do I need to provide any documentation when I apply?

You do not need to provide any special documentation when applying for CERB.

If you are applying by phone, you must have your social insurance number (SIN) and your postal code to verify your identity.

When applying, you will need to affirm that you meet the eligibility criteria for CERB. Important note: the federal government may verify at a later time the information you provided during the application process — so if you are not honest when applying, it may come back to haunt you later (for example, your taxes may be audited). If you are later found to be ineligible, your will be required to repay the benefit.

 

When are the CERB four-week benefit periods?

Here are the fixed CERB periods up to September:

  • March 15, 2020 to April 11, 2020
  • April 12, 2020 to May 9, 2020
  • May 10, 2020 to June 6, 2020
  • June 7, 2020 to July 4, 2020
  • July 5, 2020 to August 1, 2020
  • August 2, 2020 to August 29, 2020
  • August 30, 2020 to September 26, 2020

After you apply for a CERB period, the next one will become available on the first Monday of the period.

 

Will I have to pay income taxes on CERB?

CERB is a taxable benefit, but income taxes will not be deducted from your benefit when you receive it. Instead, you will have to report CERB as income when you file your income tax for the 2020 tax year.

You will therefore pay any tax owed, based on your usual 2020 income in addition to CERB, in 2021 when you file your tax return.

 

I have a question about CERB I can’t find the answer to here

If you have a question you can’t find the answer to here, visit the Government of Canada’s Apply for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) with CRA page and the Questions and Answers on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit page.

You can also find answers to common questions by calling CRA’s automated help line at 1-833-966-2099. If you have a more detailed or unusual question, you can speak with a CRA agent in person by calling 1-800-959-8281.

 

This story has been updated to reflect the expanded eligibility for CERB announced by the federal government on April 15, 2020.

Comments