Buh-Bye CERB

The federal government has introduced a suite of new income replacement programs which will take over from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) once it ends on October 3, 2020. Note that individuals can still apply for the CERB until December 2, 2020, but the benefit application must be for income lost during the time period March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020. FAQs about the CERB and the various application processes can be found on the government site here.

Remember that while it has been very easy to get the CERB, it is not properly available to those who refuse to return to work or who quit their jobs because being on the CERB is more lucrative than working.

Hello Again EI

Under normal circumstances an individual needs to have worked for some time to be eligible for EI. They need to have a certain number of banked insurable hours, which vary between 420 and 700 depending on the region and rates of unemployment.

The government has revised EI to drastically reduce the banked insurable hours needed to be eligible, down to 120. Individuals who have at least 120 insurable hours banked in the last year or from the last time they received EI will be eligible to receive EI of a minimum of $400 per week for up to 26 weeks. Those entitled to more than $400 will receive more.

As with the CERB, one cannot choose to go on EI instead of working and EI is not generally available when an individual quits.

New! Canada Recover Benefit (CRB)

The new CRB is similar to the CERB in that it will be available to self-employed individuals and those who are not eligible for EI. Under this program individuals will be entitled to $400 per week for up to 26 weeks.

To be eligible individuals must:

  • Be at least 15 years old
  • Have stopped working as a result of the pandemic (other than by voluntary resignation) and are available and looking for work or are working and have had a reduction in income for reasons related to COVID-19
  • Not be eligible for EI
  • Have had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in 2020

Individuals can work and earn money while also receiving the CRB. If net incomes, excluding the CRB, exceeds $38,000 in the calendar year, half of every CRB payment will need to be repaid.

CRB claimants will need to apply after every 2-week period and attest that they continue to meet the requirements.

New! Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit

This is a benefit that will be available to workers who are sick or who are required to self-isolate due to COVID-19. Eligible applicants will receive taxable payments of $500 per week for a maximum of 2 weeks between September 27, 2020 and September 27, 2021.

This very short-term benefit – 2 weeks – is intended to cover those who are typically now working, but who are sick or required to self-isolate for a short period of time. Individuals who receive paid sick leave from their employer will not be eligible for this benefit.

New! Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit

This benefit is intended to cover those who cannot work due to caregiving duties.

To be eligible individuals must be Canadian residents who:

  • are at least 15 years old
  • have a valid SIN
  • are employed or self-employed
  • had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in 2020
  • are unable to work because they must care for:
    • a child under age 12 due to the closures of schools or daycares or unavailability of childcare because of COVID-19
    • a family member with a disability or a dependent because their day program or care facility is closed due to COVID-19 or their usual caregiver is unavailable due to COVID-19.
    • a child, a family member with a disability, or a dependent who cannot attend school, daycare, or other care facility under the advice of a medical professional due to being at high-risk if they contract COVID-19

An individual cannot be in receipt of a paid leave from an employer in respect of the same week which they claim this benefit, nor can they be in receipt of the CRB or similar EI benefit at the same time as receiving the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.

All of the above new benefits are proposed to start on September 27, 2020.

Takeaways

Income relief will continue to be available to a wide variety of individuals whose ability to earn has been impacted by the pandemic. The availability of these new benefits does not change the fact that should an employee be offered work that they can do safely they should do it. These benefits are not available to those who have quit or who are choosing not to work because they make more money on benefits. If an employee needs to stay home because of caregiving responsibilities they may be eligible for the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, but again this is not simply a matter of choosing to keep kids home. The eligibility criteria must be met. For more on school re-opening and the impact on employers, see our past post. If you have questions about managing your workforce during the pandemic get in touch.