The federal benefit in support of Canadians affected by COVID-19 opened for applications on March 15, 2020. As of May 10, 7.8 million Canadians had submitted at least one application for CERB.
More than two million Canadians lost their jobs in the last half of March as businesses were forced to close or reduce their operations to slow the spread of COVID-19. If you have become unemployed due to COVID-19, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) may provide you with temporary income support.
The CERB provides income support for people who have stopped working due to the pandemic, including those not eligible for EI, contract employees and freelancers. The federal government launched an application portal this morning, and Canadians are being asked to apply online or by phone based on their birth month to try and limit the volume the systems have to handle on any given day.
You might also like:
- How to plan ahead for your 2020 income tax filing if you’ve collected CERB
- What You Need to Know About Filing Your Taxes This Year
- COVID-19: What Assistance Small Businesses Can Expect from Governments and Private Businesses
- Ease the Financial Stress of COVID-19 with an Emergency Budget
How long will it take to receive the Canada Emergency Response benefit?
Applicants who set up direct deposit are expected to receive their first payment within three to five business days. Those who use mail should receive their first payment within ten days.
The CERB will be paid in blocks of four weeks in the amount of $2,000, which is equivalent to $500 per week. If an individual’s situation continues, they can re-apply for payments in multiple 4-week periods, to a maximum of 16 weeks (4 periods).
Who is eligible for CERB?
Eligibility criteria for CERB have changed.
The CERB is now available if you earned $1,000 or less before taxes during an eligibility period. If this applies to your situation, you may be eligible to apply for a previous period, starting March 15, 2020. Visit Canada.ca frequently for updates to this program from the Government of Canada.
To qualify for CERB, you must:
- Have not applied for, nor received, CERB or EI benefits from Service Canada for the same eligibility period.
- Reside in Canada and be at least 15 years old.
- Have stopped working because of COVID-19.
- Have had income of at least $5,000 before taxes in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of the application.
- Have been or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period. For subsequent benefit periods, you expect to have no employment income.
The benefit is only available to individuals who stopped work as a result of reasons related to COVID-19.
If you have not stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the benefit.
The required income of at least $5,000 may come from any one, or combination of the following sources: employment; self-employment; maternity and parental benefits under the EI program and/or similar benefits paid in Quebec under the Québec Parental Insurance Plan.
The benefit is also available to workers who, after March 15, are eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits.
People who are normally eligible for employment insurance (EI) can continue to apply through EI and Service Canada, and they will automatically be enrolled in CERB.
How can I apply for CERB?
Canadians can apply online, or over the phone:
- If applying by phone, Canadians can call the toll-free line at 1-800-959-2019
- For online applications, visit Canada.ca to apply
When re-applying for another period: If you start working again after you receive a CERB payment, then stop working again, you will need to re-apply for CERB payment. When you re-apply, you must confirm that for at least 14 days in a row, during the period you are applying for, you won't receive:
- Income from employment or self employment; or
- Provincial or federal benefits related to maternity or paternity leave.
Apply for the CERB through either Service Canada, or the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)– not both.
Government officials have asked that you adhere to the schedule below for applying so the system doesn’t get overwhelmed. People with a birthday in January, February or March are welcome to apply on Mondays. People born in April through June are to apply Tuesdays, those born in July through September on Wednesdays, and Canadians with birth months October through December can sign up on Thursdays. Fridays and weekends are open to anyone who might not be able to submit on their assigned day of the week.
If applying online, Canadians will have to sign into CRA My Account.
You should go to COVID-19: Canada Emergency Response Benefit in the alert banner at the top of the web page, select the period you want to apply for, declare that you qualify for the benefit and confirm the government has the right payment and address information.
If applying over the phone, you can call the automated toll-free line at 1-800-959-2019. This is a dedicated line for CERB applications. Before you call, please ensure you have your social insurance number and postal code handy to verify your identity and make the process as efficient as possible.
Both of these services will be available 21 hours a day, seven days a week. Both services are closed from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. ET for maintenance.
Applicants will need to confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria, and information that you provide during the application process may be verified later.