The government is announcing changes to the eligibility rules for the CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit). The CERB was established to support workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB provides $2,000 every four weeks for up to four months to workers who lose their income as a result of the pandemic. The CERB covers Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and day care closures. The CERB is available for individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance such as contract workers and self employed individuals who are unable to work due to COVID-19. Workers who are still employed but not receiving income because of a disruption to their work environment also qualify for the CERB. The original eligibility requirements for the CERB included the following:
- the individual live in Canada and be at least 15 years of age;
- the individual has stopped working because of COVID-19 or is eligible for EI benefits, either regular or sickness;
- the individual has not voluntarily quit their job; and
- the individual had an income of at least $5,0000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application.
The CERB as originally rolled out provided benefits to a number of individuals that otherwise would not have been entitled to EI benefits. However there remained a number of individuals who were not able to access any financial assistance despite suffering financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. For this reason, the government has announced changes to the eligibility requirements. Those changes include the following:
- allowing people to earn up to $1,000 per month while in receipt of the CERB;
- extending the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work as a result of COVID-19; and
- extending the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.
The changes to eligibility requirements are retroactive to March 15, 2020. Further details regarding this change are expected shortly.
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