Canada Emergency Response Benefit Updates
On Wednesday, April 15, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that a greater number of Canadians will be eligible for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The CERB provides $500 per week to Canadians for 16 weeks. In most cases, individuals can only apply for the benefit 14 days after their last paycheque. Applicants must re-apply every four weeks.
The government is actively seeking to fill the gaps created by the original eligibility criteria. The original requirements for qualifying for the CERB were the following:
- The applicant must be at least 15 years old;
- The applicant must have stopped working for reasons due to COVID-19;
- The applicant must have earned employment or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019, or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and
- The applicant must not have quit their job voluntarily.
The most important expansion of CERB eligibility criteria is to permit those who make under $1000 per month to apply. This is to help those that are still working and making a paycheque, but at reduced hours. This adds some flexibility to the rule that applicants must wait 14 days since their last paycheque to apply. Now, even though an individual is still earning a salary, if it is under $1000 they can be eligible.
The criteria have also been expanded to include Employment Insurance (EI) exhaustees. If you have completed a claim of EI since January 1st, 2020, you will qualify for CERB. This is intended to help individuals who have not necessarily stopped working because of COVID-19, but are now finishing their EI and are unable to find employment because of COVID-19.
The expansion also benefits seasonal workers, who might use their EI in the off-season, and work in the warmer months. Now, as we approach summer, seasonal workers who cannot find employment due to COVID-19 are also eligible for the CERB.
Additionally, essential workers who are working full time but earn less than the CERB provides are going to get a wage boost. The federal and provincial governments are working together across the country to provide a top-up or wage boost for essential workers that are paid less than $500 per week. The details on this are not finalized yet, but it appears that the government is going to reconsider who are truly “essential workers”, and give them a wage supplement as compensation for working during this pandemic. We will provide further details on this as they become available.
The government has stated that if you select to receive the benefit as direct deposit, you should receive it within one business day. If you choose to receive the benefit by cheque, it can take up to five business days.
If a recipient receives a double-payment, there is no reason to worry. The government has stated they are tracking those cases and those individuals will just have to ration the larger benefit amount over a larger period of time. The government will not retrieve the additional funds. They will just stop providing additional payments once that recipient reaches the maximum benefit amount of $8000.
If you have any questions about how the taxable benefit above may affect you as a taxpayer, or questions about applying, contact our firm for a free consultation. We are here to help! In the meantime, we will continue to keep you informed and hope you and your families remain safe and healthy in these uncertain times!
This article provides information of a general nature only. It does not provide legal advice nor can it or should it be relied upon. All tax situations are specific to their facts and will differ from the situations in this article. If you have specific legal questions you should consult a lawyer.