COVID-19: Updates on Employment Insurance and other benefits and programs

Prepared by: Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

(Current as of: April 20, 2020)


  1. Canada Emergency Response Benefit

 On March 25, the federal government announced that the two emergency benefits announced on March 18 would be combined into a single benefit, called the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB):

  • CERB provides $2,000 a month for up to 4 months
  • Successful claimants would begin to receive their CERB payments within 3-5 (direct deposit) or 10 days (cheque by mail) of application
  • The CERB would be available from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020
    • For fixed 4-week benefit periods, see chart
    • You need to re-apply for each fixed period, up to four applications (or 16 weeks of benefits).


  • CERB is paid out to the following workers who have lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic:
    • Those who have lost their jobs
    • Those who are still employed but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation
    • Those who are sick with COVID-19*
    • Those who are in quarantine*
    • Those taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19
    • Parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or because of school and daycare closures

         * No medical certificate required

  • Wage earners, contract workers, and self-employed individuals are eligible for CERB, regardless of whether or not you qualify for EI
  • Workers must be over the age of 15 and earned more than $5,000 in the last 12 months or in 2019 to qualify
  • On April 15, the Federal Government announced changes to the eligibility rules to:
    • Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting CERB
    • Extend CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to start seasonal work because of COVID-19
    • Extend CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits (between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020) and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19
  • You cannot earn any other income, including EI benefits, paid sick leave, maternity or parental leave benefits (federal or provincial
  • While receiving CERB, you can also receive the following if you meet other criteria:
    • Canadian Pension Plan (CPP)
    • Old Age Security (OAS)
    • Royalty payments on artistic works produced before March 1, 2020
    • Non-eligible dividends (generally those paid out of corporate income taxed at the small business rate)

Relationship with EI

  • If you are already receiving EI benefits, you should not apply for CERB
    • If your EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, you could apply for CERB once your EI benefits run out, if you are still unable to return to work due to COVID-19
    • Regular EI benefits are 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount
      • As of January 1, 2020, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $54,200. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $573 per week
  • If you are eligible for EI benefits but plan to apply for CERB, you would be able to access EI regular and sickness benefits if still unemployed after the 16-week period covered by CERB
  • If you have already applied for EI but the application has not yet been processed, you do not need to reapply for CERB
    • Your claim will be automatically moved over to the CERB program and, if eligible, CERB benefits will be paid out first via Service Canada
  • If you are receiving maternity or parental EI benefits but they will run out before October 3, 2020, you are eligible for CERB once your benefits run out if you are unable to return to work due to COVID-19
    • You can apply in advance to minimize disruption of payments

Relationship with Social Assistance (ON)

  • On April 20, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced the following with respect to those receiving OW and ODSP payments:
    • Recipients as of March 1, 2020: CERB payments will be treated as partially exempt, as if they were employment income
      • $200 flat rate exemption + 50% for each additional dollar
    • New OW applicants granted on or after 1 March 2020: CERB payments will not be exemptfor purposes of determining eligibility
      • However, no overpayments should be created for people retroactively reassessed as ineligible

How to Apply

  • Applications opened on April 6, 2020
    • Claimants are recommended to apply on specific day of week based on month of birth (see: chart on GOC website)

Ways to apply:

  1. Online Portal via GOC webpage
  2. Automated toll-free number (option to speak to GOC staff):
    1. For claimants who have previously filed income tax returns with CRA: 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041
    2. For claimants who have never filed income tax returns: 1-800-959-8281

Both services open 21 hours/day, 7 days/week (closed from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. EST)

  1. Other Supports

On March 11 and 18, the federal government announced new income support for small businesses:

  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS): On March 27, 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the previously introduced payroll subsidy of 10% is increasing to up to 75% for small and medium-sized businesses
    • CEWS is in place from March 15 to June 6, 2020
    • The criteria for drop in revenue is: 15% decrease for March, 30% for other months, compared with last year or an average of Jan. and Feb. 2020, using cash or accrued method of accounting
    • The government support will help employers keep paying their employees, even if business operations have ceased or decreased due to COVID-19
  • Enhanced Work-sharing Program: work-sharing helps keep workers employed and able to receive income support even as their hours of work is reduced
    • Temporary special measures will double the length of time that employers and workers are eligible to use work-share from 38 to 76 weeks, and streamline processes so benefits can be accessed as soon as possible
    • This program is administered under Employment Insurance program


On March 18, the Federal Government announced the following:

  • Enhanced Canada Child Benefit(CCB) will increase maximum annual payment by $300 per child for the 2019-20 benefit year. This special increase will be part of the scheduled CCB payment in May 2020.
  • Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC)starting April 9, those eligible will receive about $400 for individuals and $600 for couples

Q&A about the new Federal Measures Concerning COVID-19

Prepared by: Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

(Current as of: April 20, 2020)

Q: I do not have paid sick days from my employer. What should I do?

 A: For job security-related issues, see our update on support for Ontarian workers here. Regarding income support, if you lost income due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for CERB (see above).

Q: I am sick or quarantined, and believe I qualify for EI sickness benefits or CERB. Which one should I apply for?

A: If you are sick or quarantined before March 15, 2020, you should apply for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefit retroactively without providing medical certificate. If you are sick or quarantined on or after March 15, 2020, you may be eligible for CERB if you meet the requirements.

Q: Schools and daycares are closed. I cannot go to work because I have to be home to take care of my kids or close family member. Do I have the right to take time off?

A: For job security-related issues, see our update on support for Ontarian workers here. Your employer does not have to pay you during your time off work. However, you may be eligible for CERB (see update above).

Q: Do I need to provide a ROE in order to apply for CERB or EI benefit?

A: You do not need to provide a ROE to apply for CERB. However, if you wish to apply for EI after your CERB benefits run out, you would need to provide a ROE.

Q: If I never filed tax before, am I eligible for CERB?

A: You may be eligible for CERB if you meet the requirements (see update above). You can call 1-800-959-8281 to apply.


For most updated information, please see our website:
For legal advice, please call the clinic at 416-971-9674


  1. CSALC
    July 3, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    COVID-19: Canada Emergency Response Benefit (June 30, 2020 Update)

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