The government announced three new recovery benefits to help workers who are still being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These new recovery benefits replace the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

We have done our best to explain the new recovery benefits, but things are changing fast. Somethings are also still not clear. This information may outdated or even wrong, so do not rely on it as legal advice.

The three new recovery benefits are:

  • The Canada Recovery Benefit: This benefit is for people who have lost work for reasons related to COVID-19 and who don’t qualify for EI.
  • The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: This benefit is for people who miss work because they might have COVID-19, or they have to isolate (stay away from other people), or they are at greater risk from COVID-19 because of other medical issues.
  • The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit: This benefit is for people who miss work to care for a child or other family member who cannot go to school or get their usual care because of COVID-19.

1.  How do I qualify for these new recovery benefits?

To qualify for any of the new recovery benefits, you must:

  • Have a valid social insurance number;
  • Be living in and present in Canada (although you do NOT have to be a citizen or permanent resident);
  • Be at least 15 years old; and
  • Have earned at least $5,000 in the year 2019 or in the 12 months before you apply. After January 1, 2021, you can also qualify if you earned at least $5,000 in the year 2020.

Each of the new recovery benefits also has its own rules on top of these general rules.

2.  What income counts towards the $5,000 I need to qualify?

Any money from employment (money you earn working for someone else) or self-employment (money you earn working for yourself) counts. Self-employment income means your revenue (the money you earn) minus your expenses. Any money you got from EI pregnancy or parental benefits also counts.

Money from student loans, bursaries, scholarships, disability benefits, pensions, and other Canada COVID-19 benefits (like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, and other recovery benefits) does not count.

If you qualified to get the Canada Emergency Response Benefit last spring and summer, you will most likely also meet the $5,000 test for the new recovery benefits.

3.  How much will I get?

All the new recovery benefits pay $500 per week. But tax will be taken off, so you will likely only get $450 each week.

4. How often are benefits paid?

The Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit and the Canada Caregiving Recovery Benefit are paid in one-week blocks, so you can get benefits each week you qualify. The Canada Recovery Benefit is paid in two-week blocks, so you will get paid every two weeks if you qualify.

5.  Do I have to pay tax on the benefits?

Yes. And unlike the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that was available last spring and summer, tax will be deducted from each payment you get. The government will likely take $50 in tax, so you will actually only get $450 each week.

6.  How long will the new recovery benefits be available for?

The three new recovery benefits will be available from September 27, 2020 until September 25, 2021. This does not mean that you will get benefits every week. This is just the window to collect any benefits you qualify for. Each of the new recovery benefits has a maximum number of weeks you can get (26 weeks for the Canada Recovery Benefit, 26 weeks for the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, and 2 weeks for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit).

7.  How do I apply?

You can apply online using your CRA My Account. You can also call 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041. If you apply by phone, you will need your social insurance number, postal code, and date of birth.

8.  When do I apply?

You can apply for benefits on the Monday after the period you want to apply for ends.

For example, you can apply for the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit or the Canada Caregiver Recovery Benefit for the one-week period from September 27, 2020 to October 3, 2020 starting Monday October 5, 2020.

You can apply for the Canada Recovery Benefit for the two-week period from September 27, 2020 to October 10, 2020 starting Monday October 12, 2020 (the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit and the Canada Caregiving Recovery Benefit are paid in one-week blocks while the Canada Recovery Benefit is paid in two-week blocks).

9.  Is there a deadline to apply?

The deadline to apply for recovery benefits for any period is 60 days after the period has ended.

So, to get the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit or the Canada Caregiver Recovery Benefit for the one-week period from September 27, 2020 to October 3, 2020, you would need to apply no later than 60 days after October 3, 2020.

To get the Canada Recovery Benefit for the two-week period from September 27, 2020 to October 10, 2020, you need to apply no later than 60 days after October 10, 2020,

10.  Do I need to keep reapplying?

Yes. You will need to reapply to get benefits for each period. You will need to reapply every week to keep getting the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit or the Canada Caregiver Recovery Benefit. You will need to reapply every two weeks to get the Canada Recovery Benefit because it is paid in two-week blocks.

 11.  Can I get more than one type of benefit?

Yes, but not at the same time. For example, you may be able to collect the Canada Recovery Benefit while you are out of work and then get the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit later on if you go back to work but think you might have COVID-19.

You cannot get any of the new recovery benefits in if you could qualify for Employment Insurance or if you get paid sick leave or workers compensation for that week.

1.  What are the rules for the Canada Recovery Benefit?

In addition to the general rules for all the new recovery benefits, you must:

  • Be earning at least 50% less per week than your average weekly earnings in 2019, 2020, or in the last 12 months;
  • Be looking for work;
  • Not have unreasonably quit your job or voluntarily stopped working;
  • Not have placed undue restrictions on going back to work; and
  • Not have refused a reasonably chance to start working again.

2.  What if I quit my job?

Quitting a job or voluntarily lowering your hours can have very serious consequences. If you unreasonably quit a job or lower your hours after September 27, 2020, you will not be able to get the Canada Recovery Benefit.

It is hard to say exactly what the government will consider a reasonable explanation for quitting a job. To be safe, you should try all other reasonable options to solve the problem at work before you quit.

3.  Do I have to look for work?

Yes. You also cannot place undue restrictions on being ready to work.

4.  What if I am doing a training program?

If the government referred you to that training program, you should be okay. Otherwise, you will need to show that you are looking for work and that the training program is not unduly restricting your ability to accept work.

5.  Do I have to accept work if it is offered to me?

If the job offer is reasonable, yes. If you refuse a reasonable offer to go back to work, you won’t be able to collect the Canada Recovery Benefit for 10 weeks and will permanently lose those 10 weeks of benefits.

It is hard to say exactly what the government will consider a reasonable explanation for not accepting a job or going back to work. Things like being physically unable to do the job or the job involving a very, very long commute could make it unreasonable for the government to expect you to take it.

6.  I worked for myself before. Do I have to start trying to work again?

If it is reasonable to do so, yes. If you unreasonably refuse to start working again, then you won’t be able to collect benefits for 10 weeks and will permanently lose those 10 weeks of benefits. It is hard to say exactly what the government will consider a reasonable explanation for not starting work again. Things like being physically unable to do the work or the work involving a very, very long commute could make it unreasonable for the government to expect you to take it.

7.  How much can I earn at work and still get the Canada Recovery Benefit?

You can earn up to half of what your previous average weekly earnings were. Your previous average weekly earnings are your average earnings in the past 12 months, the year 2019, or the year 2020. If you are earning more than half your previous average weekly earnings, you cannot get benefits for that week. For example, if your average weekly earnings in 2019 were $2,000, you can earn up to $1,000 per week now and still get benefits.

Pensions, student loans or bursaries, EI parental and maternity benefits, and other Canada COVID-19 related benefits do not count as income when figuring out if you have lost at least 50% of your income.

If you earn more than $38,000 in the year 2020 or 2021, at tax time you will have to pay back 50 cents for every dollar above $38,000 you earned. For example, if your total income in 2020 is $40,000, you will have to pay back $1,000 in benefits, or half of the difference between $38,000 and your earnings of $40,000.

8.  How many weeks of the Canada Recovery Benefit can I get?

The most you can get is 13 two-week blocks, or 26 weeks total. If you start an EI claim after September 27, 2020, the number of weeks you get EI between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021 is subtracted from the maximum. In other words, any week you get EI is considered to have used up a week of the Canada Recovery Benefit.

If you refuse a reasonable offer to go back to work or unreasonably refuse to start working for yourself again, you will lose five blocks (10 weeks) of the Canada Recovery Benefit.

1.  What are the rules for getting the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefits?

In addition to the general rules for all these new benefits, you must be unable to work for at least half your usual work week because:

  • You have or might have COVID-19;
  • You have to isolate (stay away from other people); or
  • You have another medical issue that puts you at greater risk from COVID-19.

For example if you usually work 5 days a week and you miss 3 days while isolating and waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test, you may qualify for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit for that week.

You cannot get benefits if you got paid leave from your employer or you got money from a sickness benefit plan or workers’ compensation for that same week.

2.  Do I need a doctor’s note or a COVID-19 test?

No. If you are sick or isolating (staying away from other people), you will need to confirm that the decision to stay home is based on the advice of a doctor, a nurse, the government, public health officials, or your employer. You don’t need a note or COVID-19 test to apply.

If you are staying home because of a risk of serious health complications from COVID-19, you will need to confirm that you are staying home based on advice from a doctor, a nurse, the government, or public health officials. Although you don’t need a letter from your doctor or nurse to apply, the government can ask for more information or proof later on if they need to verify your application.

3.  How many weeks of the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefits can I get?

You can get a maximum of two weeks of the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefits.

1.  What are the rules for the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit?

If you are caring for a child under 12 years old:  In addition to the general rules for all recovery benefits, you must be unable to work for at least half of your usual work week because:

  • Your child’s school or care facility is unavailable, or has different hours, or has restrictions about which children they can take due to COVID-19;
  • Your child’s usual care provider is not available because of COVID-19; or
  • Your child is staying home because they have or might have COVID-19, or they must isolate (stay away from other people), or they are at risk of serious health complications from COVID-19.

If you are caring for another family member who needs supervised care:

In addition to the general rules for all recovery benefits, you must be unable to work for at least half your usual work week because:

  • Your family member’s normal care program or facility is unavailable, or has different hours, or has restrictions about who they can provide care to due to COVID-19;
  • Your family member’s home care service is not available due to COVID-19; or
  • Your family member cannot get their normal care because they might have COVID-19, or they must isolate (stay away from other people), or they are at risk of serious health complications from COVID-19.

2.  Who counts as a “family member”?

“Family member” means anyone who considers you to be like a family member, not just blood relatives.

3.  Do I need a doctor’s note or a COVID-19 test?

No. You just need to confirm that you meet the criteria. If the person you are caring for is isolating (staying away from other people), you will need to confirm that the decision to stay home is based on the advice of a doctor, nurse, the government, public health officials, or the person’s employer. You don’t need a note or COVID-19 test to apply.

If the person you are caring for is at home because they are at risk of serious health complications from COVID-19, you will need to confirm that they are staying home based on the advice of a doctor or a nurse. Although you don’t necessarily need a letter from your doctor or nurse to apply, the government can ask for more information or proof later on if they need to verify your application.

4.  How many weeks of the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit can I get?

You can get a maximum of 26 weeks of the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit.

5.  Can two people who live in the same household get the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit?

Yes, but not in the same week. The total number of weeks of benefits paid to people in the same household cannot be higher than 26. A household means people living together as a family at the same address. For example, if your child must stay home for the entire school year, you can collect 20 weeks and your spouse can collect 6 weeks, but the total cannot go above 26 weeks.

Keep in mind that anyone collecting the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit must actually qualify. For example, if you qualify but your partner does not because they did not earn at least $5,000, only you can collect benefits.

1.  What if I disagree with a decision about my benefits?

You can ask the government to review the decision. You have 30 days from when you first found out about the decision to ask for a review. If you miss this deadline, you will need to explain why you should get an extension.

2.  Can the government review and reconsider my benefits after I get them?

Yes. The government might ask you for more information later on to figure out if you should have gotten benefits. The government has 36 months to reconsider whether you should have gotten benefits. If you got benefits based on a false or misleading statement, then the government has 72 months to reconsider whether you should have gotten benefits.

3.  What if the government decides later on that I should not have gotten benefits?

You will have to repay the money. The government may take the money out of your bank account, from your paycheque, or deduct it from other money you would normally get from the government. But keep in mind that you can ask for a review of that decision.

4.  What if I knowingly provide false or misleading information?

The government can give you a penalty. The penalty can be up to half the amount you got or would have gotten from knowingly giving the false information. For example, if you knowingly give false information and get $2,000 of benefits you should not have gotten, the maximum penalty will be $1,000.

Keep in mind that you can only get a penalty if you knowingly gave false or misleading information or knowingly claimed benefits you were not entitled to. You cannot get a penalty for honest mistakes. If the government gives you a penalty, you can ask for a review.

5.  I have other debts. Can the people I owe money to take my benefits?

No. The government may be able to keep your other benefits to pay back benefits you shouldn’t have gotten in the past, but no one else can take your benefits.

6.  What if I know I got benefits I shouldn’t have and want to give the money back?

You can pay back any benefits you shouldn’t have gotten using your CRA My Account.

You can also pay using your online banking. Click “Add a payee” and look for CRA (revenue) – tax installment. Enter your social insurance number as the CRA account number.

You can also send a cheque or money order. Make the cheque out to the “Receiver General of Canada”. Write down what type of benefit you are paying back, what period the benefits were for, and your social insurance number. Then mail the cheque to:

Revenue Processing – Repayment of CRB
Sudbury Tax Centre
1050 Notre Dame Avenue
Sudbury ON  P3A 0C3