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Federal emergency funds coming

Updated: Jan 31, 2021

UPDATE: This article is now out of date. Please find all the updated federal relief information here:

Are you out of work because of COVID-19?

You might qualify for these federal payments

UPDATED: 6 April 2020

To relieve financial stress on workers, the federal government is providing direct payments to eligible individuals and families.

Applications open on April 6th, 2020. However, the applications are being staggered to manage the expected volume. See “When to apply” below. Payments should start arriving in April and May.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

You can apply for a cash payment of $2000 a month for 4 months if you have lost your income due to COVID-19, regardless of whether you qualify for EI benefits. It covers all workers at least 15 years old, including self-employed, gig workers, contractors and freelancers. It is a flat payment of $2000 per month for everyone. The payments are taxable, so a T4 slip will be issued later, but there will be no deduction up front.

As with all government programs, there are specific criteria to qualify, but they are very broad and cover most out-of-work people (see Who qualifies below).

The intent is to make applying simple. You can apply through a special automated phone number, or online through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) portal called MyAccount. If you do not have a CRA MyAccount, you can set one up now to get ready and set up direct deposit at the same time.

CERB benefits will be retroactive to March 15, 2020. The benefit period ends October 3, 2020. The maximum benefit is for 16 weeks during this period, namely $8000. After the first payment, you must confirm each month that are still without work income.

Who qualifies?

You do not need a medical certificate or an official layoff notice to apply for CERB. Nor do you need any minimum number of hours of work.

The funds are available to workers who:

  • had at least $5000 income in 2019 (or in the 12-month period before applying) from employment, self-employment, EI maternity or parental benefits, or any combination

  • stopped work for reasons related to COVID-19, such as business closure, self-isolation, caring for children at home through school closures, etc.

  • have no paid leave from their employer, and

  • have no work-related income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial 4-week period (starting March 15th) for which you apply, and no work income expected for that period, and

  • confirm you still qualify for later payments when you renew.

You will not qualify for CERB if:

  • you have stopped working for reasons not related to COVID 19

  • you are already receiving EI regular or sickness benefits (If your EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, you can apply for the CERB money at that time if you are still cannot work due to COVID-19), or

  • you are receiving an emergency wage subsidy

  • you have some, albeit reduced, work income, or

  • you voluntarily quit your employment.

Note: The program is now being re-considered to include workers who have some income, but much reduced income, due to COVID. Check back in a few days for amendments to the criteria to see if you qualify.

Tip: If you are not sure if you qualify or not, apply anyway. As long as you answer the questions truthfully, there is no downside and you might receive it.

When to apply

First, the applications are being staggered, due to the anticipated volume. Follow the chart below from the CERB website to see when to apply:

The phone lines and online applications will be open 21 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are closed from 3AM to 6AM Eastern each day for maintenance.

How to apply for CERB

Everyone who applies will be asked to declare that they meet the eligibility criteria. The system operates on good faith upfront. At a later time, you may be asked to provide additional documentation to verify your eligibility. Anyone caught cheating faces stiff fines and jail time.

How to apply by phone

Before calling the automated line, collect up the information you need to verify your identity. This is: your SIN number, your postal code and the date you wish to start (stopped work).

Over the phone with an automated phone service:

1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041 

CRA will issue payments by direct deposit or cheque, based on the payment method they have on file for you. You cannot set up direct deposit on this phone system if you do not already have it. You can wait for the cheque in the mail, or set up direct deposit separately using steps explained here:

How to apply online

You can apply online through a CRA MyAccount, or a My Service Canada account if you have one. You should be able to get money within a few days through direct deposit, or up to 10 days by mail. You can request direct deposit when you apply. You will need your banking information (branch number, transit number and account number) which can be found on a cheque, on the bank’s website, or by calling the bank.

If you do not have a CRA MyAccount, you should do that first (unless you plan to apply by phone or using a My Service Canada account). See: Also, if you have online banking, you can use the same user-name and password you use for your bank (CRA calls this your “Sign-In Partner”). This method makes it quicker for the government to identify you, plus gives you one less user ID and password to keep track of and makes direct deposit into your account simple.

If you already have a CRA account, make sure your personal information and direct deposit information is up to date. Check now to see if you can access your account: Have you lost your user ID or password? You can recover the user ID on the account using your SIN, date of birth, information on your latest tax return and the security questions you set up when you registered. You can recover the password using your security questions.

If you are locked out of your account, the quickest way to apply for CERB will be through the automated phone system.

You can also use a My Service Canada Account if you have one (e.g. you applied online for EI). Log in to your My Service Canada account and use the link for “Switch to Canada Revenue Agency”. You will need to provide your address and direct deposit (banking) information as CRA does not have access to the personal information in your My Service Canada account.

For more on the CERB program:

How does this fit with EI payments?

Starting April 6, 2020, there will be a single portal to make the process easier. Until then, you can still apply for EI regular or sickness benefits. Starting April 6, the CERB program takes precedence.

If you already receive EI benefits, they will continue. You may be eligible for CERB if they end before October 3, 2020.

If you already applied for EI benefits which have not started yet, your EI application will be automatically assessed for the CERB program. If you meet CERB criteria, you will be getting the first flat payment of $2000 in April; it is not necessary to apply for CERB. The idea is to streamline millions of EI applications in the backlog to get this benefit quicker. After your CERB benefits run out, you can revert to EI benefits if you are still unemployed.

If you became eligible for EI on March 15 or later but have not applied yet, your application will be processed as a CERB application.

If you became eligible for EI before March 15 but have not applied yet, your application will be assessed under the pre-existing EI rules.

If you are eligible for EI and would have been entitled to more than $2000 a month, you will get the $2000 CERB amount until October 3. After that, you retain your eligibility for EI and the period you received the CERB does not impact your EI entitlement.

Another program gives emergency wage subsidies to employers willing to keep their employees on the payroll. Employers can get up to 75% wage subsidy if they continue to pay the employee during the COVID crisis. The intent is to be able to ramp up more quickly when business can resume. A person cannot get both the emergency wage subsidy and the CERB. Nor can a person be paid EI benefits and the CERB benefit for the same period.

The EI program is working normally for the other benefits, e.g. maternity and parental.

Payments coming in April and May, automatically

Two cash benefits are coming soon for low and modest-income families. You do not need to apply; they are automatic:

  1. An increased Goods and Services Tax Credit. The maximum amounts are being doubled to $886 for singles, $1160 for couples and $306 per child. Your actual entitlement is based on your income. These payments will be issued on April 9, 2020 based on 2018 tax returns, unless you already filed your 2019 tax return.

  2. An increase in the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit payment by $300 per child. Those already receiving the Canada Child Benefit don’t need to apply. New applicants must file a tax return ASAP and then apply. The child benefit top-up will be delivered as part of the scheduled child benefit payment in May.

These payments will be sent by cheque unless you have direct deposit set up.

Consider filing a tax return now

It may make sense to file your tax return now, even though it is not due until June 1st this year. If you are getting a refund, you may have the refund by direct deposit in a few weeks.

However, if you have arrears, they will be deducted first. Any tax refund you get will not affect your entitlement to any of these emergency payments. If you do owe taxes for 2019, they are not due until September 1st this year.

Spread the word!

Please share the CERB program widely on social media. Let’s help everyone who qualifies to get these funds.

And consider your neighbors. Do you know anyone who might qualify but has no Internet access? (Remember that libraries are closed). Perhaps you can offer to help them.

If you have CRA experience and can assist our volunteers to answer questions, please contact Lynn at cbmca.relief@gmail. com

Just a few more ways to Stay In – HELP OUT!

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