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The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was enacted by the government on March 25, 2020.The benefit  applies to “workers”, defined as persons who are at least 15 years old, resident in Canada and who, for 2019 or in the 12-month period prior to application have an income of at least $5,000 arising from: (a) employment; (b) self-employment; (c) EI benefits under ss 22(1), 23(1), 152.04(1) and 152.05(1) of the Employment Insurance Act; and (d) allowances paid under a provincial plan for pregnancy or new-born or adoptive care.

As of the date of this memorandum, the benefit amounts to $2,000 which is paid with respect to a specific four-week period. The maximum number of weeks for which the benefit is payable is 16 weeks, or four periods. The benefit is payable for the period beginning on March 15, 2020, and ending on October 3, 2020. The administrative details have not yet been revealed, but the government has indicated that the application process will consist of answering four simple questions through an online platform that they expect to be available on or around April 6, 2020.


In order to be eligible, a worker must:

  • cease working “for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period in respect of which they apply for the payment”; and
  • In respect of the 14 consecutive days, not receive:
    • income from employment or self-employment,
    • benefits, as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Employment Insurance Act,
    • allowances, money or other benefits paid to the worker under a provincial plan because of pregnancy or in respect of the care by the worker of one or more of their new-born children or one or more children placed with them for the purpose of adoption, or
    • any other income as prescribed by regulation.

What about EI Claims?

With respect to the potential overlap with EI benefits claims, the government has provided the following guidance through news release:

Canadians who are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits as of [March 25, 2020] would continue to receive their benefits and should not apply to the CERB. If their EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, they could apply for the CERB once their EI benefits cease, if they are unable to return to work due to COVID-19. Canadians who have already applied for EI and whose application has not yet been processed would not need to reapply. Canadians who are eligible for EI regular and sickness benefits would still be able to access their normal EI benefits, if still unemployed, after the 16-week period covered by the CERB.[1] 

Can the CERB be “Topped-up” Like EI Benefits?

Many employers are wondering whether it is possible to top up the CERB, as is common with EI benefit Supplemental Unemployment Benefit plans. The legislation does not specifically address this issue, and it is unclear what the government’s stance is towards CERB top up plans. At the very least, the legislation suggests that a top up should probably not be provided during the initial 14 days of any given four-week period for which that worker has applied for the benefit. Doing so may violate the condition that a worker not receive “income” during this time and require that worker to wait an additional 14 days from the date the top up is received.

Given the fluidity of the current situation, it is recommended that you receive specific advice with respect to any questions you may have about the CERB or any additional measures you are considering.

CCPartners continues to monitor announcements made by all levels of government as they are made and will continue to update you as they come. If you have any questions related to COVID-19 disruptions, CCPartners is here to help.



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