Carscallen Blog

New COVID-19 EI Benefit announced by Government of Canada

Posted by Carscallen LLP on Mar 26, 2020 3:49:23 PM

Written by Catherine A. Crang and Hema Ahuja

The federal government announced a new, streamlined Employment Insurance (EI”) benefit for those affected by COVID-19. The new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) will replace the previously-announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit that we wrote about earlier on the blog.

The CERB has been designed to help alleviate some of the strain on the federal EI system: in just a week, nearly a million Canadians applied for federal EI benefits.

Who is eligible for the CERB?

The CERB will be administered through the Canada Revenue Agency and will pay a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to:

  •  workers who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support;
  • workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
  • working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures;
  • workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work; and
  • wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for EI.

The CERB will be paid every four weeks and be available retroactively for eligible Canadians from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020.

Self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for EI

In order for contract workers and self-employed individuals to be eligible for the CERB, they must have earned $5,000 in the twelve-months preceding the applicationHowever, we note that the types of income included in this $5,000 threshold have not been clearly defined yet by the government.

How can eligible Canadians apply for the CERB?

The government has stated that people can apply online for this new benefit through a secure web portal starting in early April. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number.

The government estimates it will take approved applicants about 10 days to receive the CERB.

Canadians who have applied for or are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits

Importantly, Canadians who are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits as of today should not apply for the CERB. These recipients will continue to receive their EI benefits. If these recipients’ EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, they can apply for the CERB once their EI benefits cease, if they are unable to return to work due to COVID-19.

Canadians who have already applied for EI and whose application has not yet been processed would not need to reapply. Canadians who are eligible for EI regular and sickness benefits would still be able to access their normal EI benefits, if still unemployed, after the 16-week period covered by the CERB.

More details on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit can be found here. 


Carscallen LLP’s Employment Law Expertise

We understand that the rapid emergence of COVID-19 means that many employers and employees are dealing with a myriad of legal issues. Please contact us if you have any legal questions in connection with COVID-19, or any other legal employment matters. Our lawyers routinely work remotely and will continue to do so during this time. We remain available to provide legal advice and guidance to clients for all issues that may arise during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Please visit our COVID-19 resources page for further updates.

Visit COVID-19 Page



*This update is intended for general information only on the subject matter and is not to be taken as legal advice.


Topics: Employment, Labour and Human Rights Law, Covid-19

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