Updates to CERB and Employment Insurance programs (August 2020)
Prepared by: Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
(Current as of: August 28, 2020)
Q: What is the new extension of benefits for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?
On August 20, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that the CERB would be extended by an additional 4 weeks to a maximum of 28 weeks (or 7 eligibility periods), for workers who:
- stopped working due to COVID-19;
- are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits; or
- have exhausted their EI regular or fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020
The CERB is a taxable benefit of $2,000 per month and is available for those who qualify from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020. For fixed 4-week benefit periods, see chart.
If you have not yet applied for CERB but are eligible, you will still be able to apply until December 2, 2020.
Q: The CERB is ending. Will I be able to get Employment Insurance (EI)?
A: On August 20, 2020 the government announced that EI will now be available to more workers in Canada, including those who would not have qualified for EI in the past. These changes to the EI program will be in place for one year, starting on September 27, 2020.
Under the normal rules, access to EI benefits is based on the number of insurable hours an individual has worked in the year prior to their application, or since their last claim. This is known as their qualifying period.
Normally, workers need 420 to 700 insurable hours during the qualifying period to be eligible for regular EI, depending on which region of Canada they live in. They need 600 insurable hours during the same period to qualify for special benefits (more details below).
Under the temporary changes to the EI program, those eligible for EI regular benefits will receive at least 26 weeks of regular benefits, regardless of the unemployment rate in their region. They will also receive a minimum benefit rate of $400 per week, or $240 per week for extended parental benefits.
The temporary changes will allow individuals to qualify for EI with a minimum of 120 insurable hours. Starting on September 27, 2020, EI claimants will receive a one-time insurable hours credit of:
- 300 insurable hours for EI regular benefits (job loss)
- 480 insurable hours for EI special benefits (sickness, maternity/parental, compassionate care or family caregiver).
The credits will be applied retroactively to March 15, 2020 for individuals who wanted to transition early from CERB to EI special benefits but were not eligible due to insufficient insurable hours. For these claimants, the qualifying period will also be extended.
See Appendix below for example scenarios about the new EI measures.
If you qualify for EI under the new temporary measures
Service Canada is the government agency that manages the EI program. If you are receiving CERB and qualify for EI regular benefits under the new temporary measures, you can take the following steps to transition to EI:
- A majority of people who received CERB through Service Canada will be automatically transitioned to EI regular benefits once their 28 weeks of CERB are paid;
- Some people who received CERB through Service Canada will need to apply for EI benefits, and it will not be automatic;
- If you received CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), once the 28 weeks of CERB have been exhausted, you will need to apply for EI benefits through Service Canada.
How to apply for EI regular benefits and what to remember:
- Applicants must apply through the usual EI online application.
- Applicants will need to submit bi-weekly reports to demonstrate continued eligibility for EI benefits.
- EI benefits are taxable. Federal and provincial taxes will be deducted directly from EI payments, unlike with CERB, which will be deducted when annual income taxes are filed.
If you don’t qualify for EI
If you do not qualify for EI because you are an independent contractor or self-employed, the government will introduce new recovery benefits to replace the CERB. These programs are expected to provide a minimum of $400 per week. We will provide an update once these benefits have been finalized by the government.
|EI measures scenario 1: Regular Benefits
Worker whose seasonal employment was disrupted due to COVID-19 pandemic
· Mr. Chan lives near Barrie and works in seasonal employment on a farm from mid-June to mid-September and, in previous years, was able to qualify for EI claims based on about 900 hours of work.
· As a result of the pandemic, his hours have been cut, and he has only accumulated 200 hours of work at the time of his lay-off. Mr. Chan does not have the hours normally required to qualify for EI regular benefits.
Is Mr. Chan eligible for EI benefits under the new temporary measures?
· With the credit of 300 insurable hours, Mr. Chan has 500 hours, which is more than the minimum 420 hours of work required. As a result, he qualifies for at least 26 weeks of EI regular benefits at a minimum amount of $400 a week.
|EI measures scenario 2: Regular Benefits
Worker whose part-time employment was disrupted due to COVID-19 pandemic
· Ms. Wu lives in London, Ontario and graduated from her full-time studies in December 2020. In January 2020, Ms. Wu started to work part-time as a waitress in a restaurant. As a result of the pandemic, her hours have been cut, and she has only accumulated 400 hours of work before her workplace closed down in June 2020.
Is Ms. Wu eligible for EI benefits under the new temporary measures?
· With 400 hours of work, Ms. Wu has more than the minimum 120 hours of work. With the credit of 300 insurable hours, Ms. Wu has 500 hoursand can qualify for at least 26 weeks of EI regular benefits at a minimum amount of $400 a week.
|EI measures scenario 3: maternity and parental benefits
Expectant mother looking to take maternity/parental leave, but does not have enough hours for EI due to the COVID-19 pandemic
· Ms. Nguyen normally works 30 hours per week in Oshawa.
· She is expecting a second child in October 2020 and planned to apply for EI maternity/parental benefits.
· Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Nguyen has been laid off and is receiving CERB. She had only accumulated 450 hours of work, which is below the 600 hours required to qualify for maternity and parental benefits
Is Ms. Nguyen eligible for EI benefits under the new temporary measures?
· With the credit of 480 insurable hours, Ms. Nguyen has 930 hours, which exceeds the 600 hours requirement, so she qualifies for EI maternity and parental benefits.
A portion of the scenarios are adapted from the Employment and Social Development Canada backgrounder.