In mid-June, Canada extended the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) by an additional eight weeks, bringing the maximum length of benefits to 24 weeks, or $12,000, just as millions of CERB recipients were about to exhaust their benefits.
The CERB is a temporary income support program for those affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Over the past few months, Canadians have been able to count on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to help them get through a tough time. And the reality is that even as we start to reopen, a lot of people still need this support to pay their bills while they look for work,” announced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“That’s why today, I’m announcing that we will be extending eligibility for the CERB by 8 weeks. So, if you’ve been getting the CERB and you still can’t work – because you are unable to find a job or it’s just not possible – you will keep getting that $2,000 a month.”
Addressing concerns that the CERB creates a disincentive for individuals to return to work as the economy re-opens, PM Trudeau said the government will find ways to encourage people to work when they are able. Canada’s latest jobs data showed that there were signs of recovery in May as more provinces reopened parts of their economy.
Last month, the Government of Canada made it easier for eligible temporary work permit holders and international students in Canada to apply for the CERB.
These newcomers to Canada now only need to declare that they have a valid work permit or study permit, or have applied for a renewed permit, to obtain the CERB. Previously, they had to email Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) an image of their valid work permit or study permit, or confirmation that they had applied for renewal. The new directive affects those with a “900-series” social insurance number — people ranging from students to refugee claimants to temporary foreign workers.
Applicants still need to meet other CERB requirements, outlined below.
This change streamlines the application process for temporary residents of Canada, many of whom have lost employment due to the economic effects of the pandemic and the curtailment of business activity in Canada since March.
Some commentators, however, point out that by allowing applicants simply to give their word that they have a work permit or study permit, rather than requiring them to show proof of such a permit, opens the door for potential fraud. As before, applicants for the CERB should note that the government has the ability to identify fraudulent claims at a later date, and penalties may apply.
Students who may not be eligible for the CERB may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).
New online tool: The Government of Canada has launched a new online tool to help navigate the financial benefits available across the country. Try out the tool to see what you might be eligible for (note that the tool does not guarantee eligibility).
Update to CERB eligibility: Throughout the months of March and April, Canada loosened eligibility criteria for the CERB. Allowances have been made for workers earning less than $1,000 a month or who have seasonal employment and can’t find a job due to COVID-19, as well as those who are running out of employment insurance, to apply. Allowances have also been made for students.
Applications for the CERB opened on April 6 and are being accepted through the government’s CERB portal. More details below.
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There are a number of supports available to workers in Canada.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
The CERB provides $2,000 a month for six months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB is available to workers:
- Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
- Who have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020;
- Who had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and,
- Who have not quit their job voluntarily.
When submitting your first claim, you cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the four-week benefit period of your claim.
When submitting subsequent claims, you cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income for the entire four-week benefit period of your new claim.
Additionally, workers who are still employed, but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19, may also qualify for the CERB. This would help businesses keep their employees as they navigate these difficult times, while ensuring they preserve the ability to quickly resume operations as soon as it becomes possible.
CERB payments are taxable, meaning recipients get the full amount for now but may need to pay tax on it eventually, depending on their circumstances and other income.
The CERB application process is simple and accessible to a broad swathe of workers, including those who may not be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) payments.
The CERB covers workers in Canada who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures. The CERB applies to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).
Employment Insurance (EI)
EI covers a range of benefits for those who lose employment. For workers, EI provides regular benefits when you lose your job through no fault of your own (for example, due to shortage of work, seasonal or mass lay-offs) and are available for and able to work, but can’t find a job.
Eligibility criteria for EI are more complex than for the CERB. Please visit this page for EI eligibility details.
Should you apply for CERB or EI?
If you are eligible for both programs, you can only apply for the CERB or EI, but not both simultaneously. Since going into operation in April, 2020, the CERB has proven to be the more popular program, as judged by the millions of applicants who have been approved for payments.
Workers who are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits as of today would continue to receive their benefits and should not apply to the CERB. If their EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, they could apply for the CERB once their EI benefits cease, if they are unable to return to work due to COVID-19. Canadians who have already applied for EI and whose application has not yet been processed would not need to reapply. Canadians who are eligible for EI regular and sickness benefits would still be able to access their normal EI benefits, if still unemployed, after the 16-week period covered by the CERB. (Source: Government of Canada)
In addition, workers without paid sick leave (or similar workplace accommodation) who are sick, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children, can take advantage of the following supports announced by the Government:
- Individuals requiring a Social Insurance Number (SIN) are now eligible to apply for a SIN online.
- Waiving the one-week waiting period for those individuals in imposed quarantine that claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. This temporary measure is in effect as of March 15, 2020.
- Waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits. (Source: Government of Canada). More information about applying for EI sickness benefits is available here.
A number of payments have been made available to families in Canada affected by the COVID-19 virus.
- An increase to the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC) for low- and middle-income families. This will double the maximum annual GSTC payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year. The average boost to income for those benefitting from this measure will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. Find out more.
- A one-time increase to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts for over 3.5 million in-need families, by $300 per child. Find out more.
- Combined, the proposed enhancements of the GSTC and CCB give a single parent with two children on a low to modest income nearly $1,500 in additional short-term support.
The Government of Canada has put in place measures to support student loan borrowers during COVID-19, including a six-month, interest-free reprieve on student loan payments. It is estimated that this will provide Canadian recent graduates with around $150 extra in their pockets per month. The exact supports that students may benefit from depends on their province of residence and the nature of the loan, among other factors. Find out more here.
The Government has also announced a new Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) of $1,250 a month for students and recent graduates that will run from May to August to address the shortage of summer jobs due to COVID-19. A higher sum of $2,000 is available for students with dependents or a disability.
“COVID-19 has meant that there aren’t as many jobs out there for students, and without a job, it can be hard to pay for tuition or the day-to-day basics,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, announcing the multi-billion dollar package on April 22.
The Prime Minister’s statement, plus links to relevant pages, is available here.
The economic aid package announced by the Canadian Government on Wednesday, March 18th included a range of measures designed at providing flexibility for individuals and business when it comes to paying and filing tax forms this year.
- The Canadian Government has extended the federal tax deadline to June 1 for individuals. However, the Agency encourages individuals who expect to receive benefits under the GSTC or the Canada Child Benefit not to delay the filing of their return to ensure their entitlements for the 2020-21 benefit year are properly determined.
- Taxpayers can defer until after August 31 tax payments that are due after today and before September. (Source: Government of Canada)
- The Canada Revenue Agency will allow all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September, 2020.
- The Canada Revenue Agency will not contact any small or medium (SME) businesses to initiate any post assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits for the next four weeks. For the vast majority of businesses, the Canada Revenue Agency will temporarily suspend audit interaction with taxpayers and representatives. (Source: Government of Canada)
There are thousands of Canadian businesses that are immigrant-owned. In fact, Moving2Canada is a prime example of such an enterprise. However, as we all know, COVID-19 does not discriminate when it comes to who it infects, and that is why the Canadian Government has introduced a number of measures aimed at assisting businesses across Canada survive this trying and unprecedented time. Some of the most important economic assistance includes:
- The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) provides a 75% wage subsidy to eligible employers, retroactive to March 15, 2020. The intention is to keep the employer-employee relationship going throughout the economic downturn. July 13 update: The CEWS has been extended to December.
- The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) will allow the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) to provide more than $10 billion of additional support, largely targeted to small and medium-sized businesses. This will be an effective tool for helping viable Canadian businesses remain resilient during these very uncertain times. BDC and EDC are cooperating with private sector lenders to coordinate on credit solutions for individual businesses, including in sectors such as oil and gas, air transportation and tourism.
- Finally, the Bank of Canada also took a series of actions to support the Canadian economy during this period of economic stress, enhance the resilience of the Canadian financial system, and help ensure that financial institutions can continue to extend credit to both households and businesses. This included cutting the interest rate to 0.75 percent as a proactive measure in light of the negative shocks to Canada’s economy arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent sharp drop in oil prices. (Source: Government of Canada)
In addition to income support and other directives from the federal government, people across Canada – including immigrants, foreign workers, and international students – may benefit from support and directives in their province of residence.
Here are the most relevant resources, per province:
Share your experiences with our community
If you’re looking to connect with others who are experiencing the challenges of COVID-19 as newcomers in Canada, check out our community on Facebook. Not only do we operate our Moving2Canada Facebook page, but we also have Facebook forums for Permanent Residence applicants in Canada and around the world and for Working Holiday applicants and participants.