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In response to the chaos that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Canada, the Government of Canada has implemented a number of financial measures to help Canadian citizens. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is the most notable benefit that many struggling Canadians are trying to get their hands on. However, daily updates on the rapidly evolving pandemic make it hard and oftentimes confusing to understand where to apply, when to apply, and how to qualify for the CERB. 

To help you during these trying times, we’ve compiled a guide on the process of applying for the CERB. However, before we begin, it is important you understand how the CERB payment works. 

What Is The CERB? 

The CERB is a $2,000 aid package for Canadians whose income has been affected by COVID-19. This payment is considered a one-time payment which is intended to cover you for a period of 4 weeks. If you require additional aid, you must reapply for CERB each time you require it, up to 6 times, totalling 24 weeks of coverage.   

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Determine If You Are Eligible 

Before you apply for CERB, you should first figure out if you are eligible for the CERB package. In order to qualify for your first CERB payment, you must be able to say yes to each of these questions: 

  • Do you live in Canada? 
  • Are you over the age of 15?
  • Are you not working or will not be working due to COVID-19 for a least 14 days in a row? Reasons for not working include: 
    • Workers, including self-employed individuals, who are unable to get employment insurance, paid leave or other income support while they are sick or quarantined with COVID-19. 
    • Workers who cannot work because they are taking care of a family member (e.g. elderly mother) with COVID-19. 
    • Parents who are unable to go to work because their children require care and cannot be sent to school or daycares due to closures. 
    • Workers who are still employed but are currently not working due to lack of work available. 

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If you have said yes to these three questions, you are eligible for your first CERB payment. If your situation continues and you require an additional CERB payment, you must also be able to check off the following requirements: 

  • Have you earned a minimum income of at least 5,000 within the last 12 months or in 2019, through employment income, self-employment income, and/or maternity/paternity leave? 
  • Are you still unable to continue work due to COVID-19 and are unable to get employment insurance, paid leave or other income support? 
  • You have not quit your job voluntarily

If you have answered yes to all of these questions, then you are eligible for additional CERB payments. You can claim a CERB payment for any 4 week period starting from March 15 to October 3. 

If you continue to be eligible for the CERB, you must reapply each month (on your allotted day) in order to receive the payment. Currently, Canadians who are eligible can apply for a total of 6 CERB payments.

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Eligibility Requirements For Part-time, Seasonal And Contractual Workers

On April 15th, Trudeau announced an expansion on the eligibility criteria for the CERB package. The new criteria would make the CERB package available to:

  • Workers who make up to $1,000/month.
  • Seasonal workers who would have worked if not for the COVID-19 closures.
  • Canadians who ran out of Employment Insurance since January 1, 2020.

Where Can You Apply For CERB? 

CRA MyAccount

If you have a CRA MyAccount, you can apply for CERB through a portal there. If you do not have one you can register for it online if you have filed a tax return in the year 2018 or 2019. If you have filed a tax return before 2018, you must call 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041 to apply. If you have never filed a tax return with the CRA, you must call 1-800-959-8281 to apply for an account. 

My Service Canada Account

If you have a My Service Canada Account instead of the CRA account, you can register for the CRA MyAccount by simply signing into your My Service Canada Account and clicking the link “Switch to Canada Revenue Agency”. Once you click the link, you’ll be sent to the registration and authentication page to which you must click “I agree”. After that, your registration will be complete and you will be transferred to your CRA MyAccount, where you’ll find the CERB application portal.

By Phone

If you do have access tho either of these accounts you can simply call this automated toll-free line to apply. To verify your identity, you need to provide your social insurance number and postal code. 

Employment Insurance (EI)

You can also apply for CERB through the EI portal if you are eligible for EI. Due to the current circumstances, if you have applied for EI on March 15 or later, your application will be processed under the CERB. Meaning, you will receive $2,000 (regardless if your EI eligibility is a higher or lower amount) for the first 4 months after which your regular EI payments will start. 

When Can You Apply? 

In order to avoid bottlenecking the system, the government of Canada has set-up a schedule on when you should apply based on your birth month. 

  • People born in January, February, or March: apply on any Monday starting April 6th
  • People born in April, May, or June: apply on any Tuesday starting April 7th
  • People born in July, August, or September: apply on any Wednesday starting April 8th 
  • People born in October, November, or December: apply on any Thursday starting April 9th
  • Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays will be open for application for people born in any month.

Worried about COVID-19’s Effect On Canadian Tax Season 2019? Click here

Which Documents Do You Need To Provide? 

In order to apply for the CERB, you’ll need to provide your personal information, your SIN and other documents to confirm your eligibility. Additional documents may be required in the future to determine your eligibility.   

When Will You Receive Your Payment? 

After you fill out your application, it will take approximately 3 business days to receive your payment through direct deposit or up to 10 business days by cheque

Can You Qualify For A Loan Using The New Government Benefits?

Depending on the lender, you may be able to use your new government benefits to qualify for a loan. But, it’s important to understand the stress that could put on your finances. The first payment for any type of loan you take out will need to be paid within 2-4 weeks. This is often sooner than most consumers think. If you are currently struggling to make ends meet, adding an additional loan payment to your financial obligations may not be the right choice.

If you require more information, please visit the Government of Canada website

Priyanka Correia, BComm avatar on Loans Canada
Priyanka Correia, BComm

Priyanka Correia is a Marketing Coordinator and personal finance expert at Loans Canada. Priyanka completed her Bachelor's degree in Marketing at Concordia University and has published work that has been mentioned in various news media. She is passionate about money management and educating Canadian consumers about how to take control of their financial lives.

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