The Federal Government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit

On March 25th, the federal government passed emergency legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of particular note for all employers, the legislation introduces the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (the “CERB”) that replaces the Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit, which the government had announced last week.

Eligibility for the CERB is broadly defined and is intended to also cover persons who may not  normally be entitled to regular Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits. In particular, a person applying for the CERB:

  • Must be a “worker”, which means that he or she is over 15 years old and, in 2019 or in the 12 months preceding the application, received at least $5,000 in income from employment (whether from employment, contract employment, self-employment or EI or provincial pregnancy or parental leave benefits);
  • Must have stopped working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period during which they applied for the benefits. The term “reasons related to COVID-19” is quite broad, and would include loss of job for COVID-related reasons, sickness, quarantine, caregiving or in order to care for children; and
  • Must not have received any income during the period for which they are applying for benefits.

There is no obligation that employees first be laid off or terminated from their employment in order to receive the CERB.

The CERB is available for up to 16 weeks and the government has announced that it will provide $2,000 a month, although this amount still needs to be fixed by regulation.

Employees who are receiving regular EI benefits or sickness benefits because of COVID-19 will continue to receive those benefits. The government is advising these individuals not to apply for the CERB. They may apply for CERB if their regular EI benefits or sickness benefits end before October 3, 2020 and they are unable to return to work due to COVID-19.

The government is also advising that Canadians who remain unemployed after the 16-week period covered by the CERB continue to be eligible for regular EI benefits provided that they have the required EI insurable hours.

For more information on this article, please contact Ilan Burkes, Sari Wiens, Nicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

Note to our Readers: Information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. We are working to bring you up-to-date articles as the legal issues develop and to keep our previous posts updated. Given that the legal issues related to COVID-19 are constantly changing, if you are looking for legal advice or are dealing with an issue in relation to COVID-19, please contact your Harris lawyer or a member of our COVID-19 response team: Sari Wiens, Ilan BurkesNicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

To read our most recent articles and other updates on COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 Updates page.