- Do I qualify for the CERB?
To start, you need to meet at least ONE of the following three criteria (not all, just one!)
- You stopped working for a reason related to COVID-19;
- You became eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits on or after March 15, 2020; or
- You were getting regular EI before but your benefits ended sometime after December 29, 2019
On top of that, you must meet ALL of these criteria:
- You earned at least $5,000 in income in the year 2019 or in the 12 months before you apply;
- You are at least 15 years old;
- You are resident in Canada;
- You had a period of at least 14 consecutive days after March 15, 2020 in which you earned no more than $1,000;
- You did NOT quit your job; and
- You are NOT getting other EI benefits right now.
For people who stopped working for a reason related to COVID-19, these rules may seem a little confusing. On the one hand, the rules say you must have stopped working. On the other hand, the rules say you can earn up to $1,000 and still qualify. The government has said that if you meet the rule about earning no more than $1,000, that is also good enough to show you stopped working even though you earned a bit of money.
- What counts as “income”?
The $5,000 that you must have earned can come from:
- Self-employment, meaning you work for yourself; or
- EI pregnancy or parental benefits. Other EI benefits cannot be used to qualify.
Even money you earned in other countries can count.
For example, take a worker who has been on maternity leave and has received only $5,500 in EI pregnancy and parental benefits in the past 12 months. Her leave ended on March 21, 2020 but because of COVID-19, she was told she no longer has a job to return to. She hasn’t been able to find any other work. She could qualify for CERB because her EI pregnancy and parental benefits count as income and she therefore has over $5,000 in income from the past year.
- Does it matter why I stopped working?
People who were on regular EI that ended sometime after December 29, 2019 and people who could qualify for regular or sickness EI benefits now can get the CERB even if the reason they stopped working was not related to COVID-19.
Everyone else can only get the CERB if they stopped working for a reason related to COVID-19. For example, you can get the CERB if you are sick with COVID-19, if you have to stay home to care for kids who are not in school or someone who is sick with COVID-19, or if you were just told there is no work for you right now.
But you CANNOT get the CERB if you quit your job.
- Can I get the CERB even if I have not been formally laid-off? Or if I expect to be called back to work soon?
Yes. You can get the CERB even if your job is not over. For example, you can still get the CERB if your boss just doesn’t have any shifts for you right now, but may call you back to work after this all passes.
You do not need a Record of Employment (“ROE”) to apply for CERB.
- How much income must I have lost to qualify?
CERB claims work in four week blocks from Sunday to Saturday. For your first four week block, you must have at least 14 consecutive days with no more than $1,000 in income somewhere in that period. For any four week block after that, you must expect to have no more than $1,000 in income in the entire block. So you can do a little bit of work and still get the CERB.
For example, consider a worker who got more than $5,000 in EI parental and maternity benefits in the last 12 months. Her EI benefits ended on Saturday, March 21, 2020, but when she tried to go back to work she was told that she can only have one shift a week, which earns her $150.
This worker can get the CERB for the four week period between March 15, 2020 and April 11, 2020. She can show she has a period of at least 14 consecutive days in which she earned no more than $1,000. If she expects to have less than $1,000 in income in the next four week block between April 12, 2020 and May 9, 2020, she can get another four weeks of the CERB.
Keep in mind that if you are not working, but still getting paid, that counts as income. But other social benefits like income or disability assistance from the BC government do not count as income and will not stop you from getting the CERB.
- I stayed home because I was scared to go to work. Does that mean I quit?
Sadly we don’t have a clear answer. There are just too many different cases. If your employer said it was okay to stay home, that is not quitting. And even if your employer did not say it’s okay to stay home, staying home without permission does not necessarily mean you quit.
Right now, the government is just asking people to confirm on their applications that they did not quit. The government is not checking up on people’s answers right now. So if you say that you did not quit, you will likely get the CERB. But keep in mind that the government may start reviewing people’s benefits when things settle down. You might be asked to pay back your benefits later on if the government reviews your claim and thinks that you quit.
- I am not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident. Can I get benefits?
You must be living in Canada and you need a current social insurance number to apply. You do not need permanent resident status or citizenship.
- I was not working when COVID-19 hit, but was hoping to start work soon. Now I can’t find work. Can I get the CERB?
If you were on regular EI benefits that ended sometime after December 29, 2019, you can get the CERB as long as you meet the other criteria.
If you did not get any regular EI benefits after December 29, 2019 and you don’t qualify for regular or sickness EI now, you cannot get the CERB.