As the Canada Emergency Response Benefit begins ramping down, Canadians who still need financial help as the coronavirus pandemic stretches on are now transitioning to different benefits.
The House of Commons returned from prorogation last week and the government immediately tabled a bill creating three new benefits for those who don’t qualify for Employment Insurance, as well as for caregivers and Canadians who need to stay home from work because they are ill.
And while for many, that transition from CERB to Employment Insurance will happen automatically, others will still need to act to make sure they keep receiving federal benefits, or start receiving new ones.
Here’s what you need to know.
Transitioning from CERB to Employment Insurance
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) launched in April, but was retroactive to March 15, and was billed by the government as a way to get money out the door as quickly as possible.
It was quickly criticized by the opposition for not including any checks on eligibility criteria and relying instead on retroactive verifications. It also came under fire from some business groups who argued it was providing a disincentive for workers to return to their jobs as the economy tried to reopen.
The six-month benefit began expiring on Sunday for those who have already maxed out the 28-week period for which they can receive the benefit — basically, those who have been receiving the benefit dating from March 15.
Those who haven’t yet hit the 28-week maximum will continue receiving their CERB payment until they max out, and new applicants who now realize they were eligible at any point between March 15 and Oct. 3 can apply retroactively up until Dec. 2.
Those who max out their CERB eligibility are now being transitioned onto Employment Insurance.
The government expanded the eligibility criteria for Employment Insurance to allow for what Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough last week called a “more sophisticated” balance between the need to support workers and the need not to create an incentive to refuse paid work.
The new Employment Insurance program will let Canadians transitioning onto it from the CERB receive the same amount — $500 per week, which is taxable — for at least 26 weeks.
They can also work while on claim up to a maximum of $38,000 per year.
How to apply for Employment Insurance
For Canadians who applied for and received the CERB through Service Canada, the transition to Employment Insurance will happen automatically.
“To ensure a smooth transition to EI, the majority of Canadians still receiving the CERB through Service Canada who are eligible for EI will be automatically transitioned,” Marielle Hossack, press secretary for Qualtrough, said in an email.
“Service Canada will contact all EI clients to confirm whether they need to apply or are being transitioned automatically. Clients can also verify the status of their claim in their My Service Canada Account.”
Anyone who was receiving CERB through Service Canada and maxed out this past weekend should not need to do anything in order for their payments to transition to Employment Insurance.
That’s true for recipients through Service Canada who max out in the coming weeks and months.
For those who maxed out this past weekend, Employment Insurance payments should start for roughly 80 per cent of them by Oct. 14, while others may have a wait of roughly two weeks more.
The exception here is anyone receiving the benefit through Service Canada who is also self-employed or who has a 900-series social insurance number — they will need to apply again.
Applications can be made through the My Service Canada account.
As well, anyone who applied for and received the CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency will need to apply for Employment Insurance again through Service Canada and a My Service Canada account.
There’s no set date to apply — once you’re eligible, you can apply and once registered, you’ll have to submit biweekly reports on work status in order to keep receiving Employment Insurance.
However, waiting to apply once CERB benefits lapse will result in a waiting period while EI kicks in.
Not eligible for Employment Insurance?
Although the Employment Insurance criteria have changed, there will still be people who don’t qualify based on the number of hours and income lost.
The government has tabled and is in the process of debating legislation to create three new federal benefits aimed at those who don’t qualify for Employment Insurance. And while legislation is never a done deal until it gets royal assent, the NDP has indicated it plans to support the bill.
As a minority government, the Liberals need at least one other party to support their bills and implement the three new federal coronavirus benefits.
The first is the Canada Recovery Benefit. Like the new Employment Insurance plan, the new benefit will provide $500 weekly for 26 weeks but will target people whose income has dropped by at least half. These include self-employed people.
The program requires recipients to be actively seeking work, and states that they must accept work “where it is reasonable to do so.”
The second benefit is the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which will provide $500 per week for no more than two weeks to Canadians “who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19.”
The third is the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, which will provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks to households where someone is forced to stay home from work to care for either a child under the age of 12 or a family member who would normally be cared for at a school, daycare or care home that is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The benefit also applies in the event the child or family member has to be quarantined or gets ill.
All three benefits will be run through the Canada Revenue Agency, and Canadians will have to directly apply.
They can do this at any point between now and Sept. 25, 2021.
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