Update April 3: Eligibility Explained – Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

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(Please check the lecture titled “Update April 16: Eligibility REVISED – Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)” posted April 16, 2020, which has the latest update on eligibility for CERB.) This video further explains the eligibility criteria for CERB and answers some of the questions many people had raised in the last few days.

To view, the Canadian Government’s latest update regarding CERB, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

This lecture is taught by Amer Mushtaq, LL.B., M. Engineering , B.Sc. (Hons.), who is the Principal and Founder of Formative LLP.   Through his YouTube channel, YouCounsel, Amer shares practical advice from his years of legal experience to help anyone access justice and achieve their goals.  Subscribe today to learn more.


Show Notes:


Lecture Slides:

Welcome to YouCounsel.

Government has announced additional changes for (C.E.R.B.) Canada Emergency Response Benefits. It has allowed additional people to be eligible.  Still not everybody’s eligible but there are more people who are eligible. Who are those people?  How has the criteria changed?  Today’s update is all about that. What we have done is we have used the slides from our previous lecture and then all the changes that the government has made, we have posted these in our slides in blue color so you can easily see what are the changes that have been made from the last time we provided a lecture on this.

We begin with our disclaimer that this lecture is not legal advice. If you have any specific questions regarding your issues you should contact a lawyer or a paralegal or Canada Revenue Agency with respect to Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Now most of the criteria is the same—so we will not go into too much detail about that. You need to be at least 15 years old. This is straightforward.   You should be residing in Canada. Not much has changed with respect to residing in Canada, but there are some clarifications that we can post. Temporary foreign workers are eligible, international students are eligible, permanent residents are also eligible—I just wanted to point that out. The only requirement is that you should be residing in Canada and you should have a valid social insurance number and of course you meet the other eligibility requirements.

A number of people have asked this question—that they were traveling overseas and for some reason they are stuck there and they are not able to return to Canada—are they still eligible if they meet all the other conditions?  I quite frankly do not know the answer nor clarity has been given on the Government of Canada website, I would assume that the person is a resident of Canada and they have been temporarily stuck outside of Canada—so they should be eligible.  But you should contact C.R.A. to confirm the answer to this question.

The requirement for $5000 has not changed. To be eligible you should have earned $5000 gross income in the last 12 months or in 2019—that requirement remains the same.  The income should include employment income, self- employment income, if you have earned any maternity or parental benefits—all of those are included.

Previously the requirement was that you must have stopped work due to Covid-19 and that was the only requirement for eligibility and other reasons for stoppage of work would make you ineligible. So that has changed.  But stoppage of work due to Covid-19 is still one of the reasons that will make you eligible.  Some of the conditions were that “you have been let go from your job and previously it is said that your hours have been reduced to 0”—that is no longer the case because the current eligibility allows you to work certain hours based on certain income.  Or if you are in quarantine or sick due to Covid-19; you were away taking care of someone who was sick due to you Covid-19; you are taking care of children who cannot go to daycares or schools because of Covid-19—all of these are stoppage of work reasons due to Covid-19.  But more importantly what I want you to note is that these are only examples, these are not—this is not an exhaustive list that relates to stoppage of work due to Covid-19.  There may be other circumstances in your case in which you are not working somehow related to Covid-19, but the situation is not covered here and so you may still be eligible.

The key thing to note is that you have not voluntarily quit your job.  Because if you have done so, then you will not be eligible for Canada Emergency Response Benefits.

Now, the eligibility change as I noted in blue is that people who are entitled to employment insurance benefits either regular or sickness benefits, they are now eligible for C.E.R.B. What does this mean?  We’ll explain that by way of some example.  Let’s say your stoppage of work is unrelated to Covid-19 but you are eligible to receive regular E.I. benefits, then now you are entitled.  Previously, if your employment contract was ending regardless of Covid-19, you knew that your employment contract is ending on May or June or earlier then that’s the end of contract.  It had nothing to do with Covid-19 and that would make you ineligible for C.E.R.B.  But now you are eligible. Similarly you may have received the termination notice of your employment months and months ago.  You may have received the notice sometime in August of last year that your employment would end in March of 2020 and that was obviously unrelated to Covid-19.  But because of this particular change that the government has introduced now you are entitled to C.E.R.B.

Also, now if you are on E.I. sickness benefits but the reason for sickness is unrelated to Covid-19, then you will still be eligible for C.E.R.B. Previously the reason for the illness had to be related to Covid-19, but now your reason for illness is not related to Covid-19, so you will still be eligible. One more change the government has introduced for eligibility is for people who have exhausted their regular employment insurance benefits during a certain time period which is between December 29th 2019 to October 3rd 2020—these will be people who will also be eligible for C.E.R.B. Let’s explain that by way of example as well. For example, if your employment was ended and you are now looking for work, but you have received employment insurance benefits during regular benefits during this period between December 29th 2019 and October 3rd 2020 then you are now eligible for C.E.R.B. One of the examples could be that your stoppage of work occurred prior to Covid-19. For example, you were terminated from your employment in July of 2019 and you are entitled to regular E.I. benefits and those benefits continued beyond December 29th 2019, then you are still eligible. If those benefits expired prior to December 29th 2019, then you are not eligible or if you were terminated because of unrelated reasons, unrelated to Covid-19 but you received regular E.I. benefits then you will get C.E.R.B.—you’ll be eligible.

This also applies to seasonal workers who work, for example, a lot of construction workers work in the summers and then they receive E.I. benefits for a certain time period.  If those people were receiving benefits between December 29th 2019 and October 3rd 2020 and any time in that time period, then, they will still be eligible for C.E.R.B. even though their end of seasonal work was unrelated to Covid-19.

Similarly, if you had received sickness benefits which were unrelated to Covid-19, but you were entitled to sickness benefits (E.I. sickness benefits) during this time period, then you will be eligible for C.E.R.B. The key thing that struck the common thread in this eligibility is that C.E.R.B. is now being extended to people who have received E.I. regular or sickness benefits between December 29th 2019 and October 3rd 2020.

What are the changes made to the income during the C.E.R.B. period? There are certain changes. It is important to note.  Previously what was stated—that your income in the initial 4-week benefits period and initial 4 weeks benefits period if you recall started from March 15th and ran up to April 11th and then the requirement was for that for 14 consecutive days your income had to be 0 in that time period. That has changed.  Now when you’re making your 1st claim—it is not tied to that particular 1st initial period—for the 4-week benefit period your income for at least 14 consecutive days should not exceed $1000 and that is gross income. It is no longer 0.  As long as you have not made more than $1000 in 14 consecutive days in the 1st claim for your 4-week benefits period, you are now eligible for C.E.R.B.

What does this term “income” include?  This has been explained a bit more in detail.  Let’s go through that. Tips that people earn and declare as income—that is considered income; non-eligible dividends—these are basically monies that you receive from a corporation—small businesses usually; honoraria—this is usually for volunteer workers; royalties is for artists. These are some of the examples of income and, obviously, if you have earned salary or if you earned your self-employment income.  That’s all income.  The same definition is used for the $5000 requirement what is considered income the same definition applies here.

Please note that pension, student loans and bursaries are not considered employment income and they should not be included. What about subsequent periods?  Previously the requirement was that for subsequent periods your income had to be 0—that is no longer the case.  The requirement now, is that your employment income should not exceed $1000 for the entire 4-week benefits period. If it is not exceeding $1000, then you are eligible for C.E.R.B.  This is an incentive for people who are part-time or work less hours and want to continue working certain hours and earn some money.  The important thing is for people who are working part-time and earning less than $1000, the money from C.E.R.B. is not top up.  It’s not that you are going to get additional money to complete the $2000 you will get the whole $2000. If you earn $1000 and you get C.E.R.B. for $2000 that is $3000.  There is some advantage to people who continue to work part-time or for reduced hours.

Income from other benefits: what is stated is that as long as you’re getting, for example, disability payments or other provincial support payments or territorial payments, you need to look at your own provinces’ rules to see whether the rules allow you to get the support payments in addition to C.E.R.B. Each province has to decide that what the government website states is that government has encouraged the provinces to allow people to keep both payments.  My understanding is that so far only British Columbia has confirmed that it will allow temporarily people to keep C.E.R.B. and their disability payments or other social assistance payments but other provinces I’m not sure. Please check with your province to see what the rules are with respect to both payments.

We’re talking about employment insurance or C.E.R.B.—which one you choose or can you choose between the two? If you are already receiving E.I. benefits, whether regular illness, maternity or parental you will continue to receive E.I. and if you were receiving less than $2000 a month the amount will not increase to $2000 it will remain whatever you are receiving. If your E.I. expires before October 3rd 2020, as mentioned earlier, you can apply for C.E.R.B.  Previously the requirement was that your stoppage of work needed to be related to Covid-19 and now that is no longer the case. If your E.I. expires prior to October 3rd 2020, you will be eligible for C.E.R.B. If you have already applied for E.I., you should not apply for C.E.R.B. It will automatically be converted to C.E.R.B. if you applied on March 15th or later.  But if you are eligible for E.I. before March 15th you will receive your regular E.I. benefits and if you are eligible for E.I. on March 15th or later you will receive C.E.R.B. Again, the payment amount for C.E.R.B. is fixed.  It’s $500 per week and that’s what you will receive. But if your E.I. is less and you are already receiving that lesser amount, your E.I. will not increase—you will not get C.E.R.B. for that amount.

Let’s talk about this additional eligibility summary. Let’s summarize it.  Who are people who are now going to get C.E.R.B.?  (a) People who have lost their job before Covid-19 or unrelated to Covid-19 but received regular E.I. between December 29th 2019 and or later, but before October 3rd 2020. These are people who may not have previously been eligible but now are eligible. (b) People who are eligible for E.I. regular benefits. People who are terminated from employment unrelated to Covid-19 for example end of contract, they are now eligible for C.E.R.B. (c) People who are eligible for E.I. sickness, but their sickness is unrelated to Covid-19, they will be eligible for C.E.R.B. now. (d) Seasonal workers, as I indicated, who received regular E.I. until December 29th 2019 or later until October 3rd 2020, they are entitled to—they are now eligible for C.E.R.B.

Please note that there are many people who are still not eligible for C.E.R.B. Some of the people who are still not eligible—(a) people who have lost jobs before the onset of Covid-19 and did not qualify for E.I.  These are people who did not have sufficient insurable hours to qualify for E.I. and they are not eligible. (b) People who were out of employment for a certain time period and they are now looking for work – they are not eligible. So people looking for work but did not receive E.I. between December 29th 2019 and October 3rd 2020, they are still not eligible. (c) Part-time people, reduced hours people who make less than $2000 but earn more than one $1000 a month they will not be eligible for C.E.R.B. and, of course, (d) people who did not earn $5000 in the last 12 months of 2019 – they are still not eligible for C.E.R.B. Finally, (e) people who are receiving E.I. but their E.I. is less than $2000 a month you’re not getting a top up, they’re not getting C.E.R.B.—E.I. is what they are going to get.

Hopefully, this gives you some more clarity about what are the changes that have been made. I understand that a lot of people may still not be eligible and we hope that there may be additional changes that will cover people who are in the need of these payments and who may not be otherwise eligible.

Thank-you for watching.

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