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COVID-19 Emergency Response Benefit Explained

COVID-19 Emergency Response Benefit
COVID-19 Emergency Response Benefit Explained
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About the Author

Stacy Yanchuk Oleksy

Stacy Yanchuk Oleksy

Stacy is the Director of Education and Community Awareness at the Credit Counselling Society (CCS). She lives in Oakville with her husband, dog and cat.

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Hi Friends and Neighbours!  I hope each of you is staying both safe and sane during these strange days! In our last article together, we talked about the Employment Insurance sickness benefit and the details surrounding this program. Unfortunately, not all Canadians qualify for EI so the government of Canada has created the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

COVID-19 Emergency Response Benefit Explained

  • What is CERB? This is income support (and a taxable benefit) for Canadians impacted by Covid-19 who are not eligible for traditional benefits like Employment Insurance.
  • Who is eligible to apply?
    • Residents of Canada who are at least 15 years old
    • Workers who have stopped working or will stop working for reasons related to Covid-19 including:
      • Workers who are sick, quarantined or taking care of someone who is sick with Covid-19
      • Working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures
      • Workers who are still employed but are not being paid because there isn’t enough work and their employer has asked them not to come to work
      • Wage earners, contractors and self-employed individuals who are not eligible for Employment Insurance
      • Worker has not quit their job voluntarily
    • Worker has earned at least $5000 in income within the last 12 months through employment, self-employment, or maternity/parental benefits through Employment Insurance
    • Worker expects to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 straight days in the initial four-week period. Also, that the worker doesn’t expect to have any employment income.


  • Do I need a medical certificate to apply to CERB? No
  • Can I be on EI and CERB at the same time?”  No. If you are eligible for EI, this is where you’ll start. If you’re not eligible for EI, you can look at CERB.
  • Do I need to be laid off to access CERB? Workers who remain attached to their organization can receive CERB. But you must be without employment income for at least 14 straight days within the first four week period.
  • How long is CERB for? At this point, it’s for up to 4 months.
  • How much money will I receive? $2000/month or $500/week.
  • Is CERB taxable? Yes, but taxes will not be deducted at source. You’ll have to report CERB as income when you file your taxes next year.
  • Can I receive income while I’m on CERB? You’re expected to have no income during this time however you may access provincial payments, if applicable.
  • How do I apply? You’ll apply online.
  • Do I need to provide any paperwork when I apply to CERB? You’ll need to provide your personal contact information, your Social Insurance Number (SIN), and confirm that you meet the eligibility requirements. You may be asked to provide furthermore documentation at a later date .
  • When can I apply? The target for the portal is April 6, 2020.
  • Is there anything I can do to prepare for my application now? You can set up your CRA My Account.
  • How do I set up my CRA My Account? Go to: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-individuals/account-individuals.html
  • When will I receive my first CERB payment? According to the government of Canada, CERB will start within 10 days of applying.
  • Is there a waiting period? No
  • How will I receive my payment? Direct deposit or by cheque.
  • Is CERB retroactive? Your payments will be retroactive to your eligibility date.
  • What if I’ve already applied to EI? You don’t need to apply for CERB. If you do not qualify for EI, your application will move over to the CERB.
  • What if I’m already receiving regular EI benefits, should I reapply for CERB? You’ll continue to receive your EI until the end of you benefit period.
  • What if my regular EI benefits run out and I’m still not working due to Covid-19? If your regular EI benefits run out before October 3, 2020, you can apply for CERB.
  • Can I be on EI and CERB at the same time?
  • If I were entitled to more than $500/week on EI, will I get a higher amount of CERB? On CERB, you’ll receive $500/week regardless of what you would have received on Employment Insurance (either higher or lower). But you retain your EI eligibility after CERB payments stop.
  • Does CERB impact my EI entitlement? If, after CERB, you’re still not working, you can apply to Employment Insurance, assuming you meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Is there someone I can talk to about CERB? The government recommends that you use work with their online system.


I know this is a lot of information to digest and there’s a chance that some of it will change over the coming days. Remember that this is a difficult time for most of us so be gentle, kind and gracious with yourself and others.



It’s important that I provide full disclosures – I do not work for the government. I work for a non-profit charity called the Credit Counselling Society and we help consumers with their money through free credit counselling, low-cost debt solutions, and financial education. I lead the Education team. As well, it’s important to note that the information I provide in these articles is based on what is available on the government of Canada and Ontario’s websites. The information and details can change quickly. And finally, all government funding decisions are made by government employees so unlike my Dad, who thinks that my brothers should call me because I can help them get Employment Insurance, which obviously, I cannot, I do not have any influence on decisions made by the government.

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