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Canadians who have lost their jobs or cannot work because of the coronavirus outbreak could be eligible for support from the federal government, which has put in place emergency measures to aid workers who would not normally qualify for employment insurance (EI) or are caring for sick family members.

The federal government announced Wednesday a new benefit, called the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), to help those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. This new plan combines the two benefits the government announced last week – the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit. The single benefit is designed to make it easier for people to apply and receive money, including contract workers and the self-employed.

The Liberal government is repackaging two previously promised benefits for Canadians whose working lives are disrupted by COVID-19. The Canadian Press

Here is a rundown of the available and soon-to-be-available programs and their requirements. Prepare all of your documents ahead of time, and if applying online, it is best to complete the application all at once. Anyone who is sick, experiencing symptoms, is in self-isolation or quarantined should not go to a Service Canada office to apply in person.

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Situation: My income has been disrupted due to COVID-19.

Benefit: Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

Who can apply?

The CERB covers those who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined or taking care of someone who is ill with the virus. It covers working parents who have to stay home to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures. The benefit applies to wage-earners, contract workers and self-employed people who would not otherwise be eligible for EI.

The benefit covers people who haven’t been laid off but aren’t getting a paycheque because their workplace is closed due to COVID-19.

With nearly a million Canadians filing for EI in the past week – a volume the system is not used to handling – the government said all Canadians who have ceased working because of the virus, whether they are eligible for EI or not, can receive the benefit so they have the income support they need quickly.

Canadians who have already applied for EI and whose applications haven’t been processed would not need to reapply to get the CERB, once the portal is available.

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Workers who are eligible for EI and sickness benefits would still be able to get normal EI benefits if they are still unemployed after the four months covered by the CERB.

How much will I get?

Applicants will receive $2,000 a month.

When will I start getting benefits?

The government plans to have an online portal open by April 6. Money will start flowing within 10 days after you apply.

How long will I get benefits?

The CERB will be paid every four weeks for up to four months and will be available until Oct. 3, 2020.

What do I need to provide?

The government has not yet outlined details about what documents or details you need to apply for the CERB.


Situation: I've been laid off or lost my job and I'm eligible for EI.

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Benefit: Employment Insurance

Who can apply?

If you have paid into EI, lost your job through no fault of your own and have worked enough insurable hours, you are eligible to file for EI benefits. You need between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment, depending on the unemployment rate in your region, to qualify for regular benefits.

If you aren’t sure if you’re eligible for EI benefits, submit an application online and the government will let you know. Note that you should file online for benefits immediately after you cease working; if you delay for more than four weeks you may lose your benefits. You can file for benefits even if you have not received your record of employment (ROE) from the employer where you worked.

How much will I get?

That depends. The basic rate for most people is 55 per cent of their average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $573 a week, or about $2,292 a month.

When will I start getting benefits?

You should get your first payment within 28 days of the government receiving your application and all the required documents. Ottawa has yet to indicate whether that timeline will be shortened.

How long will I get benefits?

It ranges from 14 weeks to a maximum of 45 weeks. It depends on the number of insurable hours you've accumulated in the last 52 weeks or since your last EI claim, whichever period is shorter.

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What do I need to provide?

To make your application online, you will need your social insurance number (SIN), details about when you lost your job and how much you earned, among other things. Here is a full list of the things to prepare before you start applying.


Situation: I am sick or under quarantine and am eligible for EI.

Benefit: EI sickness benefits

Who can apply?

Anyone who is sick or under quarantine and qualifies for EI can apply online for EI sickness benefits immediately. If you can’t apply online and are ill, you can call 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232).

To be eligible, you must show that you cannot work for medical reasons, your regular weekly earnings from work are down more than 40 per cent for at least one week and you accumulated 600 insured hours of work (equivalent to 20 weeks of work at 30 hours a week) in the 52 weeks before the start of your claim.

How much will I get?

You can receive up to 55 per cent of your earnings up to a maximum of $573 per week.

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How long will I get benefits?

Those who qualify under EI sickness benefits can get up to 15 weeks of financial assistance. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government is waiving the one-week waiting period for new claimants who are quarantined.

If you want to have the one-week waiting period waived, you must call file your claim and then call:

Toll-free: 1-833-381-2725

Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-800-529-3742

When will I start getting benefits?

You should get your first payment within 28 days of the government receiving your application and all the required documents. Again, Ottawa has yet to indicate whether that timeline will be shortened.

What do I need to provide?

If you are claiming EI sickness benefits because of the COVID-19 virus or quarantine you do not have to provide a medical certificate. Ask your employer for your record of employment (ROE), but you can apply without it.

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You will also need to provide your SIN, previous employer data and bank information, among other things. A full list can be found here.


Situation: I am eligible for EI and am caring for someone who is critically ill.

Benefit: EI caregiver benefits

Who can apply?

A caregiver who is eligible for EI and is caring for someone who is ill or needs end-of-life care. The caregiver does not need to be related to or live with the person who is being cared for, but “they must consider you to be like family.”

To qualify you will need to demonstrate that you’re a family member or considered to be like a family member for someone critically ill or dying and needing care. Here is the full list of eligibility rules.

If you are not a family member, you need a form completed by the ill person or their legal representative. Your regular weekly earnings need to have decreased by more than 40 per cent for at least a week because you need to be away from work to care for the person. You need to have accumulated 600 hours of insured work in the previous 52 weeks (equivalent to 15 weeks of work at 40 hours a week). A doctor or nurse practitioner will need to certify that the person you are caring for is critically ill or needing end-of-life care.

How much will I get?

Through EI you can get up to 55 per cent of your earnings to a maximum of $573 per week.

How long will I get benefits?

You can get between 15 and 35 weeks of benefits.

When will I start getting benefits?

You should get your first payment within 28 days of the government receiving your application and all the required documents. The federal government has not yet indicated whether that timeline will be shorter.

What do I need to provide?

Your record of employment, a medical certificate, among other things. You will also need your employer information, your SIN, and other documents. Here is the full list.

Editor’s note: Canadians who have already applied for EI would not need to reapply to get the CERB. An earlier version of the story said they would need to reapply.

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