CERB

This is a guide to help you when applying to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. The PDF version is here.

Nothing in this document contains legal, financial or other professional advice. Nothing in this document contains a guarantee, warranty or prediction in outcome. You should consult relevant professionals for any necessary or relevant advice. Any examples in this document are simply a guide and do not contain legal advice.

Three important things to keep in mind when applying to CERB:

  • Whether your income has been impacted due to COVID-19 (only you can determine if your income has been impacted due to COVID-19 but talk to a trusted person who may help you)
  • Whether you stopped working or anticipate your work situation to change due to COVID-19
  • Whether you meet the general requirements to apply

What is CERB?

CERB is an income benefit response to COVID-19 and provided to individuals who have stopped working or will stop working due to COVID-19. CERB is a taxable benefit which means when you file your 2020 taxes, you will have to declare any income receive from CERB. You will likely receive the tax documentation (T4) at a later time either online through Service Canada/CRA (electronic/digital) or at your last recorded address, sometime in 2021. It is important to update your address if you wish to receive the paper copy. Usually, this can be done online through your My CRA account.

What are some examples of stopping work due to COVID-19?

  • You lost job since COVID-19 started;
  • 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;
  • You are taking care of children or other dependents because their care facility is closed due to COVID-19. This could include youth who are taking care of elderly or younger family members due to closures of care facilities. This could also include sex workers who have to quit their square job in order to care for children, for example. 

I am not sure if I will lose my job due to COVID-19 but I think my employer will fire me.

Begin the application process and reassess your circumstances if they change. You should talk with your employer about their intentions if you feel safe enough to do so. If you are unsure, talk to someone you can trust.

I feel unsafe at work and I want to quit due to COVID-19.

You cannot quit your job voluntarily and receive CERB. For federally regulated and provincially regulated workplaces, if you feel unsafe, you can consult your relevant workplace safety committee (if applicable) about your right to refuse dangerous work. You should also talk to your employer directly if you feel safe enough to do so. If you are unsure, you can contact the relevant ministry or talk to someone you trust.

I am a sex worker and I do not feel comfortable applying.

The government does not care how you make your money; they only want to ensure you are not scamming them, which would be an offence. It is important, as a sex worker, to keep track of any dollars spent to earn your income (bus tickets, cabs, etc.). If this is not doable for you or you are unsure how to do this, talk to a trusted person. If you sell or trade sexual services for other items other than cash, then it is likely you cannot account for any loss of income and may be ineligible. Again, only you know whether your income is impacted due to COVID-19.

Who can apply?

You can apply if you met the following:

  •  Reside in Canada
  •  At least 15 years old
  •  Stopped working due to COVID-19 or eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or exhausted Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 or October 3, 2020
  •  Had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 in the 12 months prior to date of application
  •  Did not quit job voluntarily

Once you apply, you have to continue to reapply after each 4-week period. The first 4-week period is your “first claim” and any subsequent claim is your “subsequent claims.” There are additional requirements for each type of claim.

For first claims:  For at least 14-days in a row, during the 4-week payment period, you do not expect more than $1,000 before taxes from employment/self-employment income.

Example A:

Bob expects to earn $1010 in self-employment income in the first two weeks of his 4-week benefit for his first claim. He is likely ineligible and/or likely owes money at a later date and/or may be audited. He should not apply and/or wait to re-assess his circumstances after receiving the income.

Example B:

Bob does not expect to receive more than $1,000 before taxes from employment/self-employment income over a 2-week period during the 4-week payment period in his first claim. He should apply.

For subsequent claims:  You do not expect your situation to change during any other 4-week period and do not expect to receive more than $1,000 before taxes from employment/self-employment income.

Example A:

Bob did not earn any money in his first period (first claim) but earned $1010 in self-employment income during a subsequent claim. All claim periods are 4-weeks. In his subsequent claim period, he earned $950 in the first two weeks and then, earned $60 in the last week of his 4-week period.

 Week 1 + Week 2 = $950

Week 3 = $0

Week 4 = $60

 He earned total $1010 in his subsequent claim. He likely owes money at a later date and/or may be audited. He should not apply for a subsequent claim at this time and/or wait to re-assess his circumstances after receiving the income.

Example B:

Bob does not expect to receive any income totalling over $1,000 before taxes but he believes he might receive $500 after taxes from his last employment cheque. He should still apply but should retain some of that income in the event he is audited at a later date or owes money.

Note: Please note that if you are working or earn income after receiving a CERB payment, and then stop working, you need to re-apply for CERB. When you re-apply you must confirm that for at least 14 days in a row, during the period you are applying for, you won’t receive any employment/self-employment income.

How do I begin the process?

The first steps of the process may take a several days as this process may require you receiving a PIN in the mail. It is recommended you begin this process to obtain your PIN if you are concerned about your employment and/or income levels changing at a later date. Receiving your PIN does not mean you are eligible for CERB; it may help begin the application process.

Where do I apply?

You can only apply online through your My CRA account if you have your tax information available. You can call the CRA directly: 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. You can also apply through Service Canada.

Why are there first claims and subsequent claims?

You can apply for CERB for 4 weeks and after each 4-week period, you confirm you are re-eligible for the program. Applications opened April 6, 2020 and you can continue to apply until December 2, 2020. You can apply and/or re-apply if your circumstances change during any eligibility period.

How do I apply?

You can apply through Service Canada or CRA (Canada.ca) but not both.

What if I apply now but owe money later?

The CRA may audit your tax filings at a later date. This is a normal process, but it sometimes is overwhelming. It is good practice to keep track of any income that you may receive together with any expenses to earn that income. This means if you spend money to earn your income, keep your receipts for that money spent. This may help with any audit done later. If you apply to CERB and you are worried about being audited later, try to put some aside.

You may need to return or repay the CERB if you:

  • return to work earlier than expected, including being paid retroactively
  • applied for CERB but later realize you are not eligible
  • applied and received the CERB from CRA and Service Canada for the same eligibility period

What if I am receiving benefits elsewhere and apply?

Only you can tell whether your income level has changed due to COVID-19. It is important to be honest and upfront; you do not want to risk being audited later and potentially owing money or having other benefits clawed back (taken away).

What is considered income?

The following is considered income:

  • Tips
  • Non-eligible dividends
  • Honorarium
  • Royalties
  • Cash received for any labour completed

What is not considered income?

  • Pensions
  • Student loans
  • Bursaries

When is the best time to apply?

Days to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit
If you were born in the month of Apply for CERB on Your best day to apply
January, February, or March Mondays April 20
April, May, or June Tuesdays April 21
July, August, or September Wednesdays April 22
October, November, or December Thursdays April 23
Any month Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays

 

What are the payment eligibility periods?

Understanding payment periods
4-week period cycle Period dates
1 March 15, 2020 to April 11, 2020
2 April 12, 2020 to May 9, 2020
3 May 10, 2020 to June 6, 2020
4 June 7, 2020 to July 4, 2020
5 July 5, 2020 to August 1, 2020
6 August 2, 2020 to August 29, 2020
7 August 30, 2020 to September 26, 2020

 

Other information:

The government has also launched two dedicated CERB telephone helplines. Get automated assistance and answers to common questions by calling 1-833-966-2099, or reach a live agent for individualized support at 1-800-959-8281.

Try to call any of the above 800 numbers first thing in the morning, normally around 8:30. If you get a busy signal at 8:30, keep trying until you get to the automated menus and until you receive the assistance you are looking for.

Nothing in this document contains legal, financial or other professional advice. Nothing in this document contains a guarantee, warranty or prediction in outcome. You should consult relevant professionals for any necessary or relevant advice. Any examples in this document are simply a guide and do not contain legal advice.