The Government of Canada has started accepting applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) this week, as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. While this benefit is going to provide crucial support to many who have lost income due to the pandemic, there are lingering questions about who has been excluded from the benefit, and whether the Government will provide further support to those who have been left out.

What is the CERB?

The CERB is a benefit to replace income lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a flat, taxable amount for all eligible claimants: $2,000 for every four weeks you are eligible, up to a maximum of 16 weeks, between March 15 (retroactive) and October 3, 2020.

Who is eligible for the CERB?

To qualify for the CERB, you must be a resident of Canada of at least 15 years of age, and must:

  • Have had at least $5,000 in income from work (employment or self-employment), EI maternity or parental benefits, or Quebec’s parental benefits program QPIP in the last year; AND
  • Have had NO income from employment, self-employment, any EI or QPIP benefit for at least 14 days in a row.

Who is NOT eligible for the CERB?

There are unfortunately many people excluded from this benefit, despite also being significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workers with reduced hours/income

Many workers have not lost all of their income due to the pandemic, but have seen a dramatic drop in their hours of work. Since they still have some level of income, they are ineligible for the CERB—this is true even if their income from employment is less than the value of the CERB.

Students seeking summer employment

Many students who were counting on employment during the summer months will not be able to find jobs due to the pandemic. However, because they did not lose a current source of income, they will not qualify for CERB. Similarly, students who are about to graduate and were about to enter the job market will not have access to this benefit.

Seasonal and unemployed workers

Like students, many workers have seasonal jobs, and therefore have not lost current income. Instead, they have lost or are likely to lose out on expected employment in the coming months. These workers do not fit the criteria for the CERB.

And, of course, any workers who are currently unemployed will not qualify for the CERB, and may be at or near the end of their EI benefits with no reasonable prospect of future employment.

More help may be on the way

The Government has received numerous inquiries about the gaps in the eligibility for the CERB, and has assured Canadians that additional help will be coming for these groups. Prime Minister Trudeau has publicly stated that the Government is exploring ways to help everyone in Canada that needs it, and should have more to say in the coming days about additional supports. He has specifically referred to forthcoming help for students, and to the possibility of extending the CERB to cover workers with reduced hours.

Updated information about the CERB and how to apply can be found here.

[This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice, which cannot be given without an assessment of your individual circumstances.]