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Canada Emergency Response Benefit vs. Employment Insurance

Last updated: April 17, 2020, 9:25 am

Also available: Frequently Asked Questions

​​​What is Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB)?

The Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) is designed to assist adults that are out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an income replacement program, not an income supplement program. It is intended to be accessed by anyone who is not working and is not otherwise eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).

In Order to Qualify for CERB You Will be Required to Attest to the Following:

  • You did not apply for, nor receive benefits (CERB or EI) for the same eligibility period;
  • You did not quit your job voluntarily;
  • You reside in Canada;
  • You are 15 years old or more when you apply; and
  • You earned a minimum of $5000 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.

For Your First CERB Application:

  • You have stopped working due to reasons related to COVID-19;
  • For at least 14 days in a row during the period you are applying for, you do not expect to receive more than $1000 (before taxes) from employment and self-employment income;
    OR
  • You received regular EI benefits for at least 1 week since December 29, 2019 and you are no longer eligible for benefits.

For Your Subsequent CERB Applications:

  • You continue to not work due to reasons related to COVID-19;
  • For the 4 week period you are applying for, you do not expect your situation to change and you do not expect to receive more than $1000 (before taxes) from employment and self-employment income;
    OR
  • You received regular EI benefits for at least 1 week since December 29, 2019 and you are no longer eligible for benefits.

Eligibility Periods

The eligibility periods are fixed in 4-week blocks. You can apply for multiple 4-week periods, to a maximum of 16 weeks (4 periods).

  • Eligibility Period 1: March 15, 2020 to April 11, 2020
  • Eligibility Period 2:  April 12, 2020 to May 9, 2020
  • Eligibility Period 3: May 10, 2020 to June 6, 2020
  • Eligibility Period 4: June 7, 2020 to July 4, 2020
  • Eligibility Period 5: July 5, 2020 to August 1, 2020
  • Eligibility Period 6: August 2, 2020 to August 29, 2020
  • Eligibility Period 7: August 30, 2020 to September 26, 2020

How do I Apply for CERB?

  • Online with CRA My Account
  • Over the phone with an automated phone service:
    • 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-9592041

What is Employment Insurance (EI) and Will it be Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Employment Insurance (regular benefits) is designed to provide income to those that are out of work and meet certain eligibility requirements. There will be an impact on this benefit.

Employment Insurance (sickness benefits) is designed to provide income to those that are off work due to illness and meet certain eligibility requirements. There will be some changes to this benefit.

Employment Insurance (maternity, parental, and caregiver benefits) are designed to provide income to those that are off work and meet certain eligibility requirements.  These benefits will continue as they normally would.

Employment Insurance (Regular Benefits)

For EI eligibility requirements, visit:

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-regular-benefit/eligibility.html

Anyone who has applied for or is eligible to apply for regular benefits prior to March 15, 2020, will continue to receive their EI with no changes.

Anyone who has applied for or is eligible to apply for regular benefits on or after March 15, 2020 will be transitioned to a new EI program that aligns with the CERB payments.  All EI recipients in this period will receive $500 per week for the next 16 weeks (paid bi-weekly) regardless of the amount approved for the claim. Therefore, if your approved rate was $547 per week, you will now receive $500. If you were approved for $320 per week, you will now receive $500.

After the 16 weeks are complete, you will revert to receiving the original claim amount.  The number of weeks you are approved for will be preserved and will begin following the conclusion of the 16 week period.

Some Examples

If you were approved for 30 weeks of entitlement at $547 per week, you will receive $500 per week for 16 weeks and then $547 per week for 30 weeks.

If you were approved for $320 per week for 12 weeks, you will receive $500 per week for 16 weeks and then $320 per week for 12 weeks.

Other changes – EI recipients will still be required to report bi-weekly but will no longer be required to look for work.

Employment Insurance (Sickness Benefits)

For EI Eligibility requirements, visit:

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness/qualify.html

This benefit applies if you are sick, injured or quarantined.

You are no longer required to provide a medical note from a health professional.

The one week waiting period usually required will be waived for this benefit, so once a claim is approved, you will be paid for each week claimed.

Additional Supports

A number of other supports will be offered by the Canadian government. See https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan/covid19-individuals.html for the current list.

Should I Apply for EI or CERB?

If you believe you will meet the eligibility requirements for EI, you should use that application even though you will receive the same amount of money. This will establish your EI claim for following the 16 week period. Service Canada is looking at ways to expedite the process for those that are waiting. 

If you do not believe you would be eligible for EI but would be eligible for CERB, please apply directly to CERB.

Also available: Frequently Asked Questions