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Many Canadians are facing a significant loss of income because of the coronavirus crisis. To ease financial stress, the federal government has introduced a number of benefit programs for parents, students, full-time, self-employed and contract workers. Read on to learn all about COVID-19 emergency benefits and financial relief from the Canadian government.

While the vaccine roll-out signals the light at the end of the tunnel, COVID-19 continues to spread across the country and Canadians continue to find themselves out of work or dealing with decreased income due to the pandemic. Fortunately, the federal government has announced a continuing series of measures to help citizens make ends meet in this stressful time. Whether you’re a parent staying home to care for your children, a freelancer dealing with a reduced client base, or have been laid-off and are having trouble paying your student loans, there is a benefit or financial relief program available. Here are the top emergency financial relief programs:

If You Lost Your Job – Employment Insurance

If you lost your job through no fault of your own, there’s a good chance that you qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits.

Do I qualify for EI and how to apply?

You may be entitled to EI regular benefits if you:

  • Were employed in insurable employment;
  • Lost your job through no fault of your own;
  • Have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;
  • Have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours (120 hours) in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter;
  • Are “ready, willing and capable of working each day;”
  • Are actively looking for work (make sure to keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them).

You can apply on the Government of Canada’s Employment Insurance website.

If You’ve Lost Income – Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)

Replacing the popular Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) is available for the millions of Canadians who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. This benefit is available to a wide variety of  Canadians, from wage earners to contractors and small business owners.  If you’ve lost income and do not qualify for Employment Insurance regular benefits, CRB is for you.

The CRB provides a taxable benefit to workers who:
  • Workers who must stop working due to COVID19, or workers who had a 50% reduction in their average weekly income compared to the previous year due to COVID-19
  • Workers who  did not apply for or receive the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, short-term disability benefits, Employment Insurance benefiots, or Quebec Parental Insurance Plan benefits
  • Workers who resident in and are present in Canada
  • Workers who are at least 15 years old and have a social insurance number (SIN).
  • Workers who earned at least $5,000 in 2019, 2020, or in the  12 months before the date you applied from either employment income, self-employment income, or maternity and parental benefits
  • Workers who have not quit their job or reduced hours voluntarily after September 20th, 2020.
  • Workers who were seeking work during the application period and who have not turned down reasonable work during the application period
This program is available to anyone who has lost their income due to COVID-19. If you’ve been laid-off or your average weekly income has been reduced by 50% compared to the same period in the previous year the CRB is for you. This benefit replaces traditional employment insurance in the short term and is also available to Canadians who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for employment insurance. Applications will be accepted both online and over the phone. You should expect to receive your first payment within 10 days after your application is submitted. This program launches on April 6. Applications will be accepted both online and over the phone. You should expect to receive your first payment within 10 days after your application is submitted.
The CRB will provide a flat payment for income support of $1,000 for each two week period that you apply, less 10% that the CRA withholds, for an actual payment of $900 every two weeks. You must apply for each period separately, and you can apply for a maximum of 13 periods out of the 26 total available between September 27th, 2020, and September 25th, 2021. You do not have to apply for periods consecutively, and you can apply for benefits retroactively up to 60 days after the period has ended. This benefit is taxable.
If you’ve recently been laid-off by an employer and you qualify for EI, you should apply for EI.
If you are already receiving EI or Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits, you don’t need to apply for the Canada Recovery Benefit.
Once you no longer receive EI, you will be able to apply for the Canada Recovery Benefit.

If Your Working Hours Have Been Reduced – EI Work Sharing Program Extension

If you are still working but your hours have been cut and you meet the eligibility requirements for employment insurance, your employer may apply for the Work Sharing Program. It was designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs due to a temporary reduction in business beyond their control. It provides income support to employees eligible for employment insurance benefits who work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers.

How Long Can We Work Under the EI Work Sharing Program?

Due to COVID-19, the Work Sharing Program has been extended from a maximum of 38 weeks up to 76 weeks. Learn more about the Work Sharing Program.

If You Are Sick or Self Isolating Due to COVID-19 — Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)

If you are unable to work because you are sick due to COVID-19, or if you’ve been ordered to self-isolate, or if you have an underlying health condition that puts you at a greater risk of getting COVID-19, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) allows you to receive $450 after taxes per 1-week application period.

The CRSB is administered in 1-week periods and you must apply for each period.
No, the federal government has recently announced changes that bar individuals who have travelled internationally from claiming the CRSB.

If You Have Children – Canada Child Benefit Top-Up

The estimated 3.5 million families with children who regularly receive the Canada Child Benefit will be able to put a little more cash in their pockets this year.

Your CCB will increase the maximum annual payment by $1,200 per child under the age of six for the entire 2020-2021 benefit year for households with a net income of up to $120,000 per year. The average family is expected to receive between $600 and $1,200, depending on their circumstances.
You don’t need to apply for this benefit, it will be added to your current CCB payments automatically, but you do need to file an income tax return in order to have your benefits calculated.  Learn more about the Canada Child Benefit Top-Up.

If You Can’t Work Because You are Caring for Your Children — Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit

For employed and self-employed Canadians who can’t work because they must provide care for their child under 12 years old, or another family member who needs care, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) is there for you. This benefit should be used if you must care for your child due to the closure of their school, regular program, or facility. You can apply for the CRBC in 1-week periods and you are eligible to receive $450 after tax.

Yes, if your child is sick, self-isolating, or at risk of serious health complications from COVID-19, this benefit is for you.

If You Have a Mortgage – Deferred Mortgage Payments

If the benefits above aren’t adding up for you, and you’ve bought a house in Canada, you might be worried about how you’re going to make your mortgage payments. Several of Canada’s biggest mortgage lenders have indicated via social media that they will allow their borrowers to defer their mortgage payments, or to “skip a payment.” These options are available on mortgages and other types of loans and credit card payments as well.

How Do I Apply to Skip a Payment or Defer My Mortgage Payment?

With encouragement from the federal government, most lenders have indicated that deferrals will be granted on a case-by-case basis. If you aren’t sure you will be able to make your next mortgage payment, contact your lender directly to discuss a deferral. Make sure you fully understand how the change will affect your future interest payments, any potential penalties you could occur and impact on your credit rating. Learn more about mortgage payment deferrals.

If You Are a Small Business Owner – Small Business  Loans

If you have experienced lost revenues due to COVID-19 but still have on-going bills like rent, taxes, and wages, the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) can provide interest-free, partially forgivable loans up to $60,000. You can apply for their loans through your local bank and credit union until March 31st, 2021.

Like most loans, CEBA loans will have terms and deadlines set by your local bank or credit union. But there are incentives to pay back the loan promptly. If you pay back your CEBA loan by December 31st, 2022, up to $20,000 of the loan will be forgiven.

If You Are a Small Business Owner Forced to Close due to a Public Health Order — Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy

If your business has been significantly restricted by a mandatory public health order, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) provides a rent and mortgage subsidy of up to 65% of qualifying expenses. If you have been required to close your business during a lockdown, you’ll receive an extra 25% in support.

The Last Word

The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. The Canadian government understands that the measures they’ve put in place to limit the spread of the virus have caused financial hardship for businesses and workers. The feds have made it clear that they are prepared to introduce additional measures in the future to reduce the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on Canadians. Keep checking back regularly for updates since the government programs outlined above are actively evolving and may change on short notice.

If you can’t make ends meet, you may need to tap into your emergency fund, take out a personal loan, or use a low-interest credit card. Another option to tide you over KOHO’s Early Payroll feature, which lets you access up to $100 of your paycheque three days early, to help you access enough cash to stay afloat during these trying times. Read about How to Survive a Financial Crisis for more expert advice.

Article comments

karen says:

is there a phone number to call for the CERB for people who don’t have internet??

Lisa Jackson says:

Yes. You can call 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041.