Are you confused about CERB? Let us break it down for you.
By Michelle McElroy
What is CERB?
CERB or the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit is a benefit from the Federal Government for Canadians who have been impacted by COVID-19. You could be impacted due to:
- reduced hours at work;
- loss of all hours;
- you have to stay home because of dependents;
- you are quarantined or taking care of others who are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19;
- you were self-employed; and/or
- you were on Employment Insurance (EI) and you have used up your entitlement.
CERB is available from March 15 to October 3, 2020. It can be backdated to March 15th, if you have not already applied. The last date you can apply for benefits is December 2, 2020. Over these 7 months, you can apply for up to 16 weeks of CERB. The 16 weeks do not have to be consecutive. CERB is paid every 4 weeks at $500 a week. You can apply for your initial benefit once you know you will not make over $1000 for 14 days in a row over a four-week period. Subsequent applications are to be made every 4 weeks in which your income will be under $1000. Applications must be made according to the schedule. (See website for application days and eligibility periods)
Remember that you have to re-apply every 4 weeks to continue to get the CERB.
The CERB is a taxable benefit. This means that you will need to claim your CERB income in your 2020 tax return. However, right now there will be no taxes taken off your CERB payments.
Applying for CERB
If you have not applied for CERB yet, there are two ways to apply:
- Service Canada
- Canada Revenue Agency
You can only apply to one agency. The Service Canada Portal will actually walk you through the process to help you determine where to apply. You will be asked a couple of questions and then you will be told to either apply through the Canada Revenue Agency or Service Canada and the Employment Insurance program. Again, once you apply to one program you cannot switch to the other one.
What is the difference?
Service Canada: This is for people who are not currently on EI. Applying here will make it easier to apply for EI once you have used the 16 weeks of benefits from CERB. Follow the blue “Service Canada” link above for the application.
Canada Revenue: If you were self-employed or not working at least part-time for 8 months of the last year. You will apply either online at CRA My Account or over the phone: 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. These are automated services. They are available 21 hours a day. They are closed from 3:00am – 6:00am EST. Before you call, you will need your Social Insurance Number, your birth date and your postal code.
If you need to call
Please note that all phone lines are very busy. It can take a long time, even hours, to get through. As lines are so overwhelmed, sometimes calls get dropped or don’t go through. If you must call, have patience and keep trying.
- Service Canada line for employment insurance benefits: 1-800-206-7218.
If you applied for EI on March 15 or before you will receive EI benefits. If you applied for EI after March 15 your claim will be automatically changed to CERB, and you can then re-apply for EI after your 16 weeks of CERB has run out.
- CERB Application Information Line and Wage Subsidy Benefit line: 1-833 966 2099. You will be directed to call numbers listed above under Canada Revenue Service. There is a lot of information to go through, but eventually you can speak to a real person.
- CERB information line 1-833-699-0299 You cannot apply on this line. You will be directed to the online application and the 1-833-966-2099 number. However, on this line, you can speak to a real person to ask questions.