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Please note that since this blog was published, there have been further changes made to the CERB program, summarized here. As such, this blog may no longer be fully updated/accurate.

Most employers are aware that the Federal government has introduced wage subsidy programs, described in more detail by my colleague Jen Costin in her recent blog. However, employers should also be aware of the benefits being offered to Canadian workers.  

News reports indicated that the government received a staggering one million Employment Insurance (“EI”) applications in the final week of March. In an effort to simplify the application process, the Federal government introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”).  

CERB will provide $500.00 per week to workers over the age of 15 who: 

  • are resident in Canada; 
  • have stopped working because of COVID-19; 
  • had income of at least $5,000 in the previous 12 months; and 
  • earned no income for at least 14 consecutive days in the four-week application period. 

Workers have been directed to apply for CERB regardless of their entitlement to EI. If a worker became eligible for EI on or after March 15, 2020, the worker’s application will automatically be processed through CERB. Applications must be renewed every four weeks. 

Answers to frequently asked questions include: 

Can workers continue to earn money while collecting CERB?

A worker must have stopped working and be without income for 14 consecutive days within the initial 4-week entitlement period. For all subsequent periods, the worker must not earn income to remain eligible.

Will all workers receive the same $500/week amount?

Yes – even if the worker would have earned less, or more, through EI.

How long will CERB benefits last?

Currently, a maximum of 16 weeks, although the legislation/regulations could subsequently be amended.

When will workers receive their first payment?

Within 3 days if paid by direct deposit and within 10 days by cheque from the worker’s successful application date – there is no waiting period.

If a worker is already receiving EI benefits, should the worker apply for CERB?

No, not until the employee’s EI benefits expire. Workers cannot receive both CERB and EI simultaneously.

The application for CERB is now open. Workers can apply for CERB here. One user described the application process as just a few clicks of a mouse, so efficiency appears to have been prioritized in the process.  

As of April 6, 2020, the Federal Government announced it is looking at “tweaks” to CERB to allow those who currently do not qualify, such as students who have not yet started summer jobs and those that are making some income, but less than what they ordinarily do. Stay tuned for updates on future amendments to CERB.  

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