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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.”

Application Process

The application portal was launched on April 6, 2020, and is now taking applications. The application process requires individuals to: select the initial four-week benefit period, certify eligibility (which will be required for subsequent benefit periods) and confirm direct deposit information. Individuals will need to reaffirm their eligibility to receive the CERB for subsequent four-week benefit periods.

In order to be eligible, a worker must:

  • reside in Canada
  • be at least 15 years old
  • For your first CERB benefit period application:
    • You have stopped or will stop working due to reasons related to COVID-19
    • For at least 14 days in a row for the period you are applying for, you will not receive:
      • employment income
      • self-employment income
      • provincial or federal benefits related to maternity or paternity leave
  • For your subsequent CERB benefit period applications:
    • You continue to not work due to reasons related to COVID-19
    • For the 4 week period you are applying for, you will not receive:
      • employment income;
      • self-employment income; or
      • provincial or federal benefits related to maternity or paternity leave.
  • You have not quit your job voluntarily
  • You did not apply for, nor receive, CERB or EI benefits from Service Canada for the same eligibility period
  • You earned a minimum of $5,000 income in the last 12 months or in 2019 from one or more of the following sources:
    • employment income
    • self-employment income
    • provincial or federal benefits related to maternity or paternity leave

What about EI Claims?

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

If you have stopped working because of COVID-19, you should apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, whether or not you are eligible for Employment Insurance. The Benefit is available for the period from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020.

Starting April 6, 2020, there will be a single portal to assist you with the application process. From this portal, you will then be guided through your responses to a few simple questions to complete the application best suited to you (i.e. eligibility for Employment Insurance benefits or not).

Canadians who are eligible for Employment Insurance and who have lost their job can continue to apply for Employment Insurance.

If you became eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits on March 15, 2020 or later, your claim will be automatically processed through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

For other EI benefits, including maternity, parental, caregiving, fishing and work-sharing, you should also continue to apply.[1]

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

Many employers and employees 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 the initial 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. To be clear, no clear guidance has been provided with respect to any ability to top up CERB payments.

Editor’s Note: We have learned that new SUB Plans, and/or modifications to existing Plans – still only applying to EI benefits in terms of how they are drafted and how applications are made – are being approved with quick (approximately 2 days) turnaround times.  This is leading to speculation that there may be wording in forthcoming Regulations (or amendments to the legislation itself in regards to the CERB) allowing the application of such SUB Plans to the CERB.  This would be consistent with the plea from the government for employers to do all they can for employees.  In the event a SUB Plan is registered in this regard and they do not allow for its application to the CERB, it could still be in place for the period at the end of the 16-week CERB benefit, if employees shift to EI at that point.

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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