CERB AMA With MasterCowfish

Remember our post about applying for CERB? Our guest author is back today, Thursday April 16 from 4-5pm PST, 7-8pm EST to answer your questions about the Canadian government benefit, eligibility, what you can expect and when.

I need to start out by clarifying who I am, and who I am not. I am a Canadian citizen who remains employed throughout the COVID-19 crisis (touch wood). I am working from home. Previously I worked for the government, in a department adjacent to the one that manages the EI, but was not directly involved. I know the basic workings of the EI system, but am not privy to insider information. I have not applied for the CERB, nor do I intend to, as both my spouse and I continue to work. I am writing this guide because I am adept at maneuvering the ins and outs of bureaucracy, and have been helping friends and acquaintances with their questions and concerns regarding benefits for individuals during this crisis. I only have the information that everyone else has, but have been talking it out with a lot of people, reading, researching, and feel confident that I can help you sort out a course of action and make sense of it all. 

Put your questions in the comments section of this post and we will edit this post to provide answers. You can add your questions any time up to the end of the chat.


First question:

“I applied for EI on March 15, and found out yesterday that I didn’t have enough hours for an EI claim. I thought all EI claims were being turned into CERB payments. What do I do now? Do I apply for CERB or will I get automatically shunted over to the CERB by EI?”

Answer:

The instructions were to apply through the EI system if you were laid off on March 15 or later, and it would process your claim directly through the CERB. I think the problem here is that the first few (hundred/thousand) people to apply promptly on the 15th got shunted through the EI system – the CERB not being set up fully yet.

  • yes, you are eligible for the CERB
  • no, I don’t know if EI will automatically send you to the CERB.

This has happened to a friend of mine. She called a number for the CRA CERB and that person could not answer her question. So, my friend applied for the CERB by phone, through the CRA system. I expect her to get money (probably 2 payments – March and April) on Monday. If she gets more, then she’s accidentally double-dipped.

Next Question:

Are permanent residents of Canada who are currently abroad eligible for CERB?

That’s a tough one. We do not know HOW eligibility will be assessed, but we know that it will be, after the fact. Why are you out of the country. Do you meet any of these?: You have lost your job; You are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19; You are taking care of others because they are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19; and/or You are taking care of children or other dependents because their care facility is closed due to COVID-19. (from the gov’t CERB Q&A website) I can’t find any information about whether or not you have to actually be IN the country, but you must be a resident of Canada. As always, it’s in what is NOT said. So I’d say, very carefully, that yes, if all other eligibility requirements are there, you are probably eligible for the CERB. We’ll probably be able to argue a lot of cases after the fact, so be sure to have your ducks in a row.

Third question:

I applied for the CERB. Will I automatically keep getting money every month?

The CERB system is set up for one-off payments. You apply = you get a payment. The onus on is on the individual to make sure they don’t apply for more than four 4-week periods. The next period starts May 6th, and if the original conditions still apply to you, then put in your application for the CERB again. Remember, you can make up to $1000 per month now (as of April 15). If you’re going to have a good month, maybe hold off, and don’t apply. Save it for the summer.

New question from Facebook:

How can the CERB help a small business owner?

I can think of 2 ways:

  • You can lay an employee off, who can then get the CERB, but now you can also bring them back for some part-time hours (so they can earn up to $1000 more per month). You can keep your loyal employees on.
  • If you’re self-employed but NOT incorporated, you’re an individual who has lost income due to COVID-19, therefore you are eligible for the CERB, plus you can make up to $1000/month.

Another from Facebook:

What about people in low-paying jobs? I don’t make $2000 a month at the best of times. Will CERB do anything for me? I can’t quit or then I won’t be eligible.

 

The Federal government has announced a plan to top up workers in essential services to $2,500/month, in partnership with the Provinces, but there’s no mechanism in place for that yet. This is all well and good, the expanded eligibility to CERB, the extra money for essential workers – but what it’s really setting us up for, in a rather elegant way, is the Universal Basic Income (UBI). Proponents of the UBI have given the number $2,500/month as a basic income for everyone…and unlike the CERB, it would be permanent, and it would be for everyone: esp people on social service benefits or disability supports – which are stuck at FAR BELOW the $2,000/month CERB benefit. (If you’ve not talked to a person on Disability during this lockdown, you’re missing out on an education, that’s for sure!)

Updated to add:
FYI – Students? You’re ‘seasonal workers’ for the purposes of the CERB, and if your employment opportunities are dried up because of COVID-19, then you can apply now that school is over. If you are otherwise eligible (did you make $5k last year? Are your 2018 taxes done?), apply for the period starting May 6.

Note that we’ve gotten some pushback about that statement, so we did some digging.

If you’re a student who earned $5000 in employment or self-employment income last year, and your summer job has gone POOF for this year because of the lockdown, you should apply and you will almost certainly be approved.

You may or may not be considered officially “seasonal workers” although if we’re calling them summer jobs that seems pretty damn seasonal to me; but seasonality is not the issue. The issue is a) whether you earned $5k last year and b) your employment has dried up.

Remember, the CERB is only supposed to be 16 weeks long in the first place. Whether or not your prospective job would have continued through the next 20 years or ended in four months, it’s all the same to the government. Apply. And save as much as you can, which is advice we’re giving everyone these days.

UPDATED April 22: Today the Prime Minister confirmed the above in his video address to the nation. You can see more in our post on the new CESB for Students

That’s all for today. Thanks for tuning in!

18 Comments Add yours

  1. raincoaster says:

    Reblogged this on raincoaster and commented:

    Got questions about the CERB supports, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit? We’ve got answers at 4pm PST with MasterCowfish.

    Like

  2. raincoaster says:

    Got our first question, via Facebook.

    “I applied for EI on March 15, and found out yesterday that I didn’t have enough hours for an EI claim. I thought all EI claims were being turned into CERB payments. What do I do now? Do I apply for CERB or will I get automatically shunted over to the CERB by EI?”

    Like

  3. raincoaster says:

    New question, also via Facebook:

    Are permanent residents of Canada who are currently abroad eligible for CERB?

    Like

    1. Lori says:

      They’ve updated the Q&A at the Gov’t website, and there’s this:
      Can you receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit if you are not a citizen or permanent resident?
      Yes if you meet the eligibility requirements, which includes residing in Canada and having a valid Social Insurance Number.

      “Residing in Canada” – I think you’d need to prove that your primary residence is in Canada…but is that sufficient? Tread carefully here.

      Like

  4. raincoaster says:

    Third Facebook question: Question: I applied for the CERB. Will I keep getting money every month? or something

    Like

  5. raincoaster says:

    Another FB question, and a good one: How can the CERB help a small business owner?

    Like

  6. Susan says:

    I quite my job Feb/2020, travelled to Brazil to volunteer for two months, returned home early, due to the pandemic, March 18. I can’t get a job (as a server). Would I be eligible for CERB?

    Like

    1. raincoaster says:

      If you quit your job in 2020, I’m afraid you are not currently eligible for CERB. There may be other supports available to you. If I were you I would apply for Welfare immediately, because it’ll be at least something, the federal government has promised to increase supports for the poorest, and if there IS a program for which you are eligible, your welfare worker will direct you to it. They want you off their books and onto the Federal books instead, so they will definitely help you find opportunities.

      Trudeau mentioned supports for those who volunteer…it might be worth looking into that, so you can make a positive difference AND collect income at a higher level than welfare. But first, apply for welfare.

      Like

    2. Lori says:

      Also check out the supports available on a Provincial level – there are links available to each jurisdiction’s plans in the previous post.

      Like

  7. Peter zsofcsin says:

    Hello,
    I was laid off from my job on March 6th, I qualify for EI but not the CERB because I was laid off before March 15th. But I only receive 212$ a week on EI instead of 500$ on the CERB! I don’t think it’s fair for people who got laid off because of the covid a few weeks earlier than March 15th to not receive the CERB. My EI finishes on August 15 , which means I can then transfer to the CERB for 1 1/2 mths only. Can’t support my family with 212$ a week. Do you think they might changes to this policy?

    Like

    1. raincoaster says:

      This is just personal opinion but I believe CERB will be extended at least to October.

      Like

    2. Lori says:

      I hear your frustration! Don’t forget to look into the provincial benefits – I know BC is coming out with a $1000/month support. There are links to each jurisdiction at the end of the last post

      Like

      1. Lori says:

        Update: BC is coming out with a one-time payment of $1000, not monthly. Sorry. :/

        Like

  8. Uchechukwu Ebochuo says:

    Thanks for the information but I have a question in regards to my situation. I am an international student that graduated April 2019. I Applied for my post graduate work permit and October 2019 it was rejected according to immigration(I skipped semester) I was told to stop working and restore my status. I reapplied again using a lawyer in December 2019. Up on till now April 2020′ I have not got a final decision yet from immigration’ I have used up all my savings’presently I keep asking friends for financial help and hope to pay back once my work permit is approved. I didn’t apply for EI because i felt I’m not qualified. In my situation Can i apply for CERB? I’m just confused I meet some requirements on the website and some I don’t meet. I’m here with my husband’ I’m the principal applicant’ so what affects me also affects him. While I was going to school he was working ‘ he didn’t apply for EI or CERB yet. Are we qualified

    Like

    1. raincoaster says:

      Well that’s a complicated enough situation that we think you need to go back to your lawyer to sort that out.

      But for the love of god, what is your husband waiting for? If he is eligible for EI or CERB he should apply. If he is not, he should apply for welfare, as should you. You may or may not qualify because of your immigration status, but welfare will just tell you. It’s better than begging your friends because you didn’t want welfare.

      Like

    2. Lori says:

      Hmm. From the Q&As on the gov’t site:
      “Can you receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit if you are not a citizen or permanent resident?
      Yes if you meet the eligibility requirements, which includes residing in Canada and having a valid Social Insurance Number.”

      Like

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