Everything you need to know about the CERB replacement and other new government benefits

National Post


When it comes to the government’s COVID-19 benefits, the question on many Canadians’ minds over the course of the summer of 2020 has been: “What comes next?”

This week we got some answers.

On Thursday, the government announced that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which is offered to both employees and the self-employed and has to date paid out $69.4 billion to over 8.6 million Canadians, will be extended by an additional four weeks, and will then transition into a simplified Employment Insurance (EI) program.

In addition, three new temporary measures were unveiled: the Canada Recovery Benefit for self-employed workers and workers not eligible for EI; the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit for workers who are unable to work because they are sick or must self-isolate; and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit for individuals unable to work because of the need to provide care or support for a child, family member or dependent.

Let’s take a brief look at each new program.

Simplified EI

EI, which is only available to employees who involuntarily lose their jobs, will now be available to more Canadians, including those who would not have qualified for EI in the past because they may not have had sufficient qualifying hours. Normally, EI claimants receive EI regular benefits of 55 per cent of their average weekly earnings, up to the maximum of $573 per week in 2020. Under the simplified program, individuals who lost their jobs will be eligible for at least $400 per week provided they’ve worked at least 120 hours in the prior 52 weeks (or since their last claim), and these benefits will be available for a minimum of 26 weeks.

To collect EI, individuals must be available and looking for work. And, unlike the CERB which disincentivized workers who earned more than $1,000 in any four-week period by making them ineligible, you can work and collect EI. Under the EI’s “Working While on Claim” rules, if you earn income while receiving EI, your EI regular benefits are reduced by 50 cents for each dollar of earnings, up to 90 per cent of prior earnings.

Canada Recovery Benefit (“CRB”)

If you’re self-employed, although you may have qualified for the CERB, you likely don’t qualify for EI, which is where the new CRB kicks in. The CRB, scheduled to run from Sept. 27 for one year, will provide $400 per week, for up to 26 weeks, to workers who are not eligible for EI. The CRB is taxable.

The benefit will be available to Canadian residents who are at least 15 years old and have a valid SIN, have stopped working due to COVID-19 and are available and looking for work, or are working but have experienced a reduction in their (self-)employment income for reasons related to COVID-19. Similar to the CERB requirements, the individual must not be eligible for EI, must not have quit their job voluntarily and must have had (self-) employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or 2020.

Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)

For employees (or the self-employed) who don’t have a paid sick leave program, the new CRSB will provide a $500 per week taxable benefit, for up to two weeks, for individuals who cannot work either because they are ill, or because they must self-isolate, due to COVID-19. This benefit will be available for one year, also starting Sept. 27.

In order to be eligible for the CRSB, an individual must be resident in Canada with a valid SIN, be at least 15 years old, be (self-)employed when the application is made, have missed a minimum of 60 per cent of scheduled work in the particular week, not be otherwise receiving paid sick leave, and have earned at least $5,000 of (self-)employment income in 2019 or 2020.

Applicants will be required to attest that they meet the requirements for the CRSB, although medical certificates are not required. Applications can be made after the specific claim week ends.

Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)

Finally, the CRCB will provide a $500 per week taxable benefit, for up to 26 weeks, if an individual misses work to care for a family member due to COVID-19. This benefit will also be available for one year, beginning on Sept. 27. The CRCB can be shared among household members, but only one household member can receive the benefit in any one week. If a facility is available, but an individual prefers to keep a dependent at home, they’re not eligible for the CRCB.

To qualify for the CRCB, you must have been unable to work for at least 60 per cent of your normally scheduled work week because you must take care of a child who is under 12 years old, or provide care to a family member with a disability or a dependent. You must be caring for the child, family member or dependent because either: their school, daycare, day program or care facility is closed (or operates under an alternative schedule) due to COVID-19; a medical professional has advised that they cannot attend the facility due to being at high risk if they contract COVID-19; or because the caregiver usually providing care is not available because of COVID-19. In addition, you must not have received paid leave or certain other benefits (including the CERB, CRB, CRSB, short term disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, or EI benefits) for that work week.