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Who can get the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and how do I apply?

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Who can get the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and how do I apply?
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Government of Ontario
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)

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Who can get the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and how do I apply?
Reviewed: 
June 19, 2020
Answer

If you have questions about whether you’re eligible for the CERB, you can contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) at 1-833-966-2099, or Service Canada at 1-833-699-0299.

The Government of Canada has created a tool to help you figure out which COVID-19 benefits you might qualify for. The tool does not guarantee that you'll be eligible. But it's a good place to start.

COVID-19 Benefits
COVID-19 Benefits

Use this chart to learn about the eligibility rules and what's available under each program.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) gives up to $500 a week to workers who have stopped working because of COVID-19. This might be because:

  • You've been let go or laid off from your job or your hours have been reduced to zero.
  • You're in quarantine or sick because of COVID-19.
  • You're away from work to care for others who are in quarantine or sick because of COVID-19.
  • You're away from work to care for children or other dependants whose daycare has closed because of COVID-19.

You don't qualify if you voluntarily quit your job.

CERB is available to employees, people who are self-employed, contract workers, and parents who were receiving on Employment Insurance (EI) parental benefits. It is also available to people on EI who have used all of their benefits and are now unable to find a job.

The Federal Government has announced that CERB is also open to seasonal workers even though they have probably not stopped working because of COVID-19.

You can apply for CERB either through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Service Canada. You must not apply to both or you may have to repay some of the money you receive. To find out whether you should apply through CRA or Service Canada, answer these questions. The eligibility requirements are slightly different.

Please note that if you applied for EI regular or sickness benefits after March 15, 2020, your claim will be handled as if you applied for the CERB. You don’t have to do anything more.

You will not receive EI and the CERB at the same time. If you remain eligible for EI after you are no longer eligible for the CERB, then you will be able to re-apply for EI.

Income Benefits Chart
Income benefits

Learn about benefits that are available if you need money.

What you need to apply

To apply, you need all of the following:

If you're not able to create an online account, you can call 1-800-959-2019. 

If you apply for the CERB through the CRA, you apply for 4 weeks at a time. If you apply through Service Canada, you apply for 2 weeks at a time.

In both cases you can apply to cover time that starts as early as March 15, 2020, and as late as October 3, 2020. In both cases you can receive a maximum of 24 weeks of CERB payments. The latest that anyone can apply is December 2, 2020.

Payments

Payments can be made by direct deposit or cheque. If you’re eligible for the CERB, you will get $500 per week.

If you applied through the CRA, you will be paid $2,000 for every four week period that you apply for.

If you applied through Service Canada, you will be paid $1,000 for every two week period that you apply for. You may receive an initial payment of more than $1,000 to account for the weeks you were eligible for the CERB before you applied.

If your situation continues, you can re-apply up to a maximum of 24 weeks. The maximum of 24 weeks is the same whether you apply through the CRA or Service Canada. To continue receiving benefits you will need to reapply or recertify (see “What you need to apply” above).

Note that CERB payments are taxable income. This means that many people who are receiving CERB will have include this money when they file their taxes. And because the government is not deducting taxes from CERB you may have to pay taxes on it next year.

For more information about how CERB will be taxed, read the question How will getting the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) affect how much income tax I have to pay?

Eligibility 

There are slightly different requirements for getting the CERB through the CRA and Service Canada. This chart compares some of these requirements:

Eligibility Requirements Service Canada CRA
You must be: 15 years old and a resident of Canada. 15 years old and a resident of Canada.
You must stop working for: 7 days in a row during the 2-week period that you’re applying for. 14 days in a row during the 4-week period you’re applying for.
You must have made: $5,000 in 2019 or the 12 months before you apply. This income must be EI insurable earnings. This means you must have paid into EI when you received it. If you earned this money by working you likely paid into EI.

$5,000 in 2019 or the 12 months before you apply. This $5000 can come from any combination of:

  • employment
  • self-employment
  • maternity or parental benefits from EI
  • provincial pregnancy or adoption benefits
You will get your payments of: $1,000 every two weeks. $2,000 every four weeks.
Can I make income and receive the CERB? You can earn up to $1,000 per month and still be eligible for the CERB. You can earn up to $1,000 per month and still be eligible for the CERB.

Check here to find out where you should apply. 

If you would qualify for EI regular benefits then you will qualify for the CERB.

What if I find out later that I don’t qualify?

CERB applications are being processed very quickly using “attestations”. Attestations are promises by people applying for the CERB that they qualify. There is no requirement to provide a Record of Employment (ROE) or any other supporting documentation at this time.

The government has said that at a later date they will be reviewing applications more closely. And if they decide that you did not qualify for CERB, you may have to pay the money back. The government has suggested that they may use the tax system to sort out incorrect payments next year. The government is not allowed to charge interest on any money you have to pay back.

This means that you should not apply for the CERB if you do not believe you qualify.

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