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.
“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?”
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.
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.
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:
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.