A Guide to CERB Benefits

What is Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?

As COVID-19 has rapidly spread around the world, millions of employees and independent contractors have found themselves suddenly unable to work. Lyft and Uber drivers have taken an especially hard hit and many food delivery drivers have lost hours in recent weeks. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB, was created to help Canadians who find themselves suddenly unemployed and don’t have access to traditional benefits or unemployment wages. Under the plan, workers can receive as much as $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.

Who is eligible?

The plan was largely created to help independent contractors, international students and workers who may not qualify for EI. You have to live in Canada and have a Social Insurance Number to have CERB eligibility. You also have to be at least 15 years old have $5,000 or more income over the previous 12 months. If non-permanent residents or non-citizens meet these criteria, they are also eligible to receive CERB benefits.

You can take advantage even if you haven’t been completely laid off but have had your hours reduced to fewer than 10 hours a week. Family members who have to stay home to care for loved ones, parents caring for children or individuals who have been quarantined can apply with or without a doctor’s note as well.

If you have voluntarily quit your job or you are already receiving EI benefits, then you are not eligible for CERB benefits.

It also now includes people who are earning up to $1000, seasonal workers facing no jobs, and people who have run out of employment insurance since January 1.

How do I apply?

After you have been without work or working with reduced hours for 14 days, you can fill out a CERB application. The benefit is backdated to March 15. So if you were laid off or had your hours reduced on March 25, you would be able to apply now since that date was more than 2 weeks ago. Don’t forget, you have to reapply every four weeks in order to keep receiving benefits and you have to expect to be out of work for that time to be eligible. For example, you can re-apply on May 1 if you expect to be out of work until at least June 1.

You can apply online at Canada Revenue Agency’s secure My Account portal page, or you can call and apply over an automated phone system. Because of the number of people who are unemployed, the phone line has long wait times. If you want to call, dial 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041 and be ready to provide your postal code and SIN number so your identity can be verified.

The government is encouraging people to apply on different days based on their birth month to streamline the process. Apply on Monday if you were born in January, February or March; Tuesday if you were born in April, May or June; Wednesday if you were born in July, August or September, and Thursday if you were born in October, November or December. Anyone can apply on the weekend regardless of their birth month.

If you already applied for EI before the government announced the CERB benefit, you don’t have to do anything to change your application. The EI applications will be merged into the CERB system. If you have been receiving EI because you were unemployed before March 15, you will continue to receive those EI checks as long as you are entitled to them, and the CERB system won’t change this.

When will I get paid?

The government is working to ensure that people get paid quickly after submitting their applications. They are encouraging people to set up direct deposits so they can get their money three to five business days after sending in their application. Cheques will take about 10 business days to arrive in the mail.

You must reapply each month

CERB FAQ

Can Uber drivers apply?

Yes, as long as you haven’t made any income for the 14 days before you are applying.

Can international students apply?

Yes, as long as you meet the other CERB eligibility requirements, you can apply.

Does receiving OSAP funds make me ineligible for CERB?

No, receiving OSAP funds does not make you ineligible. As long as you aren’t making employment income during the 14 days before you apply, you should be eligible for CERB benefits.

We’re in this together

Things have been scary and uncertain for the last few weeks, and we understand that this is especially true if you work on contracts where your income depends on getting clients and jobs regularly. Losing income and work is a big deal and being isolated while you are dealing with this can make it even more difficult. We hope this guide helps you to access resources that are available, and please know that Remitbee is still working hard to help make sure that you and your family back home have the support you need.

If you need to support your family overseas by sending money, trust Remitbee to help!