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Overview of CERB and COVID-Related EI Payments

In a focused attempt to reduce the financial impact of COVID-19 on individuals and families who have lost income due to the pandemic, CERB payments were made available to those who qualify.

As the pandemic is increasingly impacting the economy, many businesses and their employees are facing a loss of income, benefits, business loans, retirement funds, and individual taxes to name a few.

The Canadian government’s response for workers and individuals, is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Employment Insurance sickness benefits as they relate to COVID-19.

CERB is available for workers that, due to COVID-19, suffered a job loss, illness, layoff, and anyone who is caring for vulnerable individuals (children or seniors). CERB is a taxable benefit of $500.00 per week for up to 16 months.

COVID-19-related employment insurance (EI) sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement that permits a person to recover up to 55% of their insurable earnings—up to a maximum of $573 a week. EI sickness benefits are available to eligible persons unable to work due to illness, injury, or quarantine, to permit them to recover and return to work. For those affected by COVID-19 and in quarantine, the one-week waiting period will be waived, no medical certificate is needed, and those who cannot complete their claim due to quarantine may apply later and have their claim retroactively dated to cover the delay period.

Eligibility for CERB and EI

Eligibility for CERB – Through CRA Eligibility for CERB via EI – Service Canada
o   Residing in Canada

o   At least 15 years old

o   Stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19

o   Had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application

o   Have not quit their job voluntarily

o   Being employed in insurable employment.

o   Job loss where the employee is not at fault.

o   Being without work or income for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks.

o   Have either worked for the required number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim.

o   Continuing to mitigate any damages.

Should I apply for CERB or EI?

Workers who have stopped working on or after the date of March 15, 2020, should apply for CERB. Workers who have stopped working on or after March 15 will automatically be processed through CERB even if they apply for EI.

For anyone who stopped working before March 15, 2020, their claim will be processed under the existing EI rules. The benefit under both streams amounts to $2,000.00 per month for each eligible claimant, even if a worker’s EI eligibility was below the $2,000.00 threshold.

Should I apply for CERB or EI?

According to Canadian government, workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic should apply for CERB. For those who became eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits on March 15, 2020 or afterward, their EI claim will be automatically processed through CERB.

Recent Changes to Broaden Assistance

On April 15, 2020, the scope of CERB eligibility was expanded by the Government of Canada to provide wider assistance with loss of income due to COVID-19. The additional eligibility criteria include:

  • Those earning up to $1,000 per month.
  • Seasonal workers who are without a job and have exhausted their EI benefit entitlement.
  • Individuals who exhausted their EI benefit entitlement, and cannot find work due to COVID-19.

Contact Us

If you are an employer or an employee needing assistance with a workplace issue, our team of experienced employment lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone at 1-(800)771-7882, or email at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

If you are a small or medium size company looking for full-service support, visit our CLO program page for our strategic solutions.


Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to serve as, or should be construed as legal advice, and is only to provide general information. It is in no way particular to your case and should not be relied on in any way. No portion or use of this blog will establish a lawyer-client relationship with the author or any related party. Should you require legal advice for your particular situation, fill out the contact form, call 1-(800)771-7882, or email [email protected].