OPSEU COVID 19 FAQ

(Posted April 15, 2020)

Note: The answers below were compiled from the information available on the Government of Canada's website retrieved at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.htm


Section 1: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Q1. What is the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?

The CERB provides temporary income support if you lost work due to COVID-19. The benefit is available for up to 16 weeks. The CERB is designed to help those Canadians who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI), although as noted below, workers who qualify for EI can also qualify for this benefit. The CERB will be jointly administered by Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).


Q2. How do I know if I am eligible for the CERB?

This is the eligibility criteria:

  • Resident of Canada, 15 years of age or older;
  • Have stopped working due to COVID-19 or are eligible for EI regular Benefits or EI sickness benefits;
  • Who had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months preceding the date of application from any of these sources, or a combination of these sources: employment, self-employment, or maternity or parental leave benefits; and
  • Who are, or expect to be, without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial 4-week period, and for subsequent periods expect to have no employment income.


Q3. What situations does the CERB cover?

The CERB is available to those who stopped work due to COVID, including but not limited to:

  • You have been let go from your job or your hours have been reduced to zero;
  • You are in quarantine, or are sick due to COVID-19, or are caring for others who are in quarantine or are sick;
  • You are away from work caring for children or other dependents whose care facility is closed due to COVID-19.

Note: the CERB does not cover a situation where you quit your job voluntarily.


Q4. Do I have to have been laid off to be eligible for the CERB?

No, you can still remain "attached" to your employer, but you have to have stopped working due to COVID-19 and be without employment income for at least 14 consecutive days within the initial 4-week period. For subsequent periods, you expect to have no employment income.


Q5. Am I eligible for the CERB if my hours have been reduced due to COVID-19?

Within the initial 4-week period you can have some hours of work as long as you can show 14 consecutive days of no employment income. For the subsequent period, you must have no employment income.


Q6. Am I eligible for the CERB if I anticipate I won't be able to find work due to COVID-19?

The benefit is only available to those individuals who stopped work as a result of reasons related to COVID-19. If you are looking for a job but haven't stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the benefit. The government's website gives this example: "For example, if you are a student who had a job last year and were planning on working this summer, you do not qualify for the benefit."


Q7. How much does the CERB pay out?

The CERB is paid in blocks of 4 weeks for a flat benefit of $2000, which is the equivalent of $500 per week. A maximum of 16 weeks of benefits can be paid. It is a taxable benefit, however tax will not be deducted at source. You will report the benefit as income in your income tax filing for the 2020 tax year.


Q8. How long is the CERB available for?

The CERB is available from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020. The last date to apply is December 2, 2020.


Q9. When can I apply?

If you stopped working due to COVID-19, you can apply for the CERB starting April 6, 2020. Starting on that date there will be a single portal available for you to do so. Information about the portal will be here. You will be able to apply online or over the phone. In order to manage what is expected to be a huge volume of applications, the Canadian government is asking you to apply on specific days of the week according to the month you were born:


  • January, February or March - apply on Mondays, including Mon. April 6.
  • April, May or June - apply on Tuesdays, including Tues., April 7.
  • July, August or September - apply on Wednesdays, including Wed. April 8.
  • October, November or December - apply on Thursdays, including Thurs., April 9.
  • Any month - apply on Friday, Saturdays or Sundays.


Q10. What can I do now to get ready to apply?

The government strongly advises that you register for your CRA My Account and Direct Deposit https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/benefits/apply-for-cerb-with-cra.html


Q11. Is there a waiting period for the CERB?

There is no waiting period. Benefits will start flowing within 10 days of your application. Payments will be made by direct deposit or cheque. The Canadian government's website advises that you will receive payment more quickly if you choose direct deposit.


Q12. Are the payments retroactive?

The payments are retroactive to your eligibility date.


Q13. What documentation is required to apply for the CERB?

You will need to provide your contact information, Social Insurance Number and confirm your eligibility. You may have to provide additional documentation to verify your eligibility at a later date. Also, as noted in A10, you need to register for CRA My Account and Direct Deposit.


Q.14 Do I need to provide a medical certificate if I was in quarantine or sick from COVID-19?

No, you do not need to provide a doctor's note or a medical certificate.


Q15. Should I apply for CERB if I am currently receiving EI Regular Benefits?

No, you should not. You cannot receive the CERB and EI benefits covering the same period. If your EI benefits cease before October 3, 2020, and if you meet the eligibility requirements of the CERB, including you stopped work due to COVID-19, then you can apply for the CERB.


Q16. How do I know whether to apply for the CERB or EI regular benefits?

It's generally recommended that if you are eligible for EI, it is more advantageous to apply for EI. However, it is important to know the following:

  • The Canadian government is automatically processing all EI regular benefits and sickness benefits claims from March 15, 2020 or later through the CERB in order to get income into the hands of Canadians more quickly since the EI system currently has a backlog of claims. This means that for the first 16 weeks you will receive the CERB payments of $500 per week, (paid in blocks of 4 weeks), and then you will be able to access EI regular or sickness benefits if you are still unemployed or sick when you stop receiving the CERB.
  • The government's website says that you "retain your eligibility to receive for Employment Insurance after you stop receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and the period that you received the CERB does not impact your EI entitlement."


Q17. What happens if I became eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits before March 15, 2020 but didn't apply for EI until after March 15?

Your claim will be processed under the pre-existing EI rules.


Q18. What happens if I applied for EI regular benefits or sickness benefits but it has not been processed? Do I need to reapply for the CERB?

If you applied for EI regular benefits or sickness benefits on March 15, 2020 or later, then your claim will be automatically processed through the CERB so the answer is no, you do not need to reapply.


Section 2: Employment Insurance regular benefits


Q19. What are Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits?

EI regular benefits are meant to cover workers who have lost their job or were laid off without pay. As noted below, there are requirements related to hours worked and payment into the EI program.


Q20. Who is eligible for EI regular benefits?

Those who have paid into the Employment Insurance program and have worked a minimum of 420 to 700 insurable hours in the last 52 weeks are eligible. The precise number of hours required depends on where you live and the regional unemployment rate at the time you made the claim. As well, you have to prove that you lost your job through no fault of your own and that you have been without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks.


Q21. How much does EI regular benefits pay out?

Recipients can expect between 14 and 45 weeks of payments worth up to 55% of their usual pay, or $573 per week, whichever is less.


Q22. Is there a waiting period for EI regular benefits?

Yes, there is one-week waiting period, meaning that you do not receive a payment for that one week, generally at the start of receiving benefits. (The Canadian government did not waive this one-week waiting period for EI regular benefits related to COVID-19, although it did for EI sickness benefits.)


Q23. What documentation is required to apply for EI regular benefits?

First, you must request a Record of Employment from your employer. You can then apply online. You can also call 1-833-381-2725, however, please know there is a high volume of calls.

  • Please note: the Canadian government is automatically processing all EI regular benefits and sickness benefits claims from March 15, 2020 or later through the CERB in order to get income into the hands of Canadians more quickly since the EI system currently has a backlog of claims. This means that for the first 16 weeks you will receive the CERB payments of $500 per week, (paid in blocks of 4 weeks), and then you will be able to access EI regular or sickness benefits if you are still unemployed or sick when you stop receiving the CERB.
  • The government's website says that you "retain your eligibility to receive for Employment Insurance after you stop receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and the period that you received the CERB does not impact your EI entitlement."

Section 3: Employment Insurance sickness benefits


Q24. What are EI sickness benefits?

EI sickness benefits cover workers who need to take sick leave not covered by their employer. As noted below, there are requirements related to hours worked and payment into the EI program.


Q25. Who is eligible for EI sickness benefits?

Workers who have paid into Employment Insurance (EI) and worked at least 600 insurable hours in the last 52 weeks. You must demonstrate that you are incapable of work because of a prescribed illness, injury or quarantine, and that you would otherwise be available to work.


Q26. What situations related to COVID-19 are covered by EI sickness benefits?

Provided the worker has paid into EI and has worked the required insurable hours, EI sickness benefits are available to workers:

  • Who fall sick from COVID-19;
  • Are required to self-isolate or go into quarantine under the direction of a public health authority.


Q27. Do I need a doctor's note or medical certificate to apply for EI sickness benefits due to COVID-19?

Normally you would need a medical certificate. The Canadian government waived this requirement for new claimants applying for EI sickness benefits due to COVID-19.


Q28. How much does EI sickness benefits pay out?

EI sickness benefits are paid for a maximum of 15 weeks, depending on how long you are unable to work. Payments are worth up to 55% of usual pay, or $573 per week, whichever is less.


Q29. Is there a waiting period for EI sickness benefits for COVID-19?

Normally, there is a one week waiting period in which the recipient would not receive payment. The Canadian government waived the one week waiting period for new claimants applying for EI sickness benefits due to COVID-19.


Q30. What documentation is required to apply for EI sickness benefits?

First you must a request of record of employment from your employer.You can then apply online. You can also call 1-833-381-2725, however, please know there is a high volume of calls.

  • Please note: the Canadian government is automatically processing all EI regular benefits and sickness benefits claims from March 15, 2020 or later through the CERB in order to get income into the hands of Canadians more quickly since the EI system currently has a backlog of claims. This means that for the first 16 weeks you will receive the CERB payments of $500 per week, (paid in blocks of 4 weeks), and then you will be able to access EI regular or sickness benefits if you are still unemployed or sick when you stop receiving the CERB.
  • The government's website says that you "retain your eligibility to receive for Employment Insurance after you stop receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and the period that you received the CERB does not impact your EI entitlement."


Q31. When should I apply for EI sickness benefits?

Workers who are eligible for EI sickness benefits and fall sick from COVID-19 or are required to self-isolate or go into quarantine are advised to file a claim immediately. Workers who cannot complete their claim due to quarantine may apply later and have their EI claim backdated to cover the period of delay.


Section 4: Employment Insurance Caregiving benefits


Q32. What are EI Caregiving benefits?

EI Caregiving benefits are meant to cover workers who are unable to work because they are caring for someone who is sick. As noted below, there are requirements related to hours worked and payment into the EI program.


Q33. Who is eligible for EI Caregiving benefits?

Those who have paid into Employment Insurance (EI) and worked at least 600 hours in the last 52 weeks.


Q34. What documentation is required to apply for EI Caregiving benefits?

First, you must request a Record of Employment from your employer. You can then apply online. You can also call 1-833-381-2725, however, please know there is a high volume of calls.


Section 5: The Canada child benefit


Q35. What is the Canada child benefit (CCB)?

It is a tax-free monthly payment made to families to help with the cost of raising children under the age of 18. The CCB is administered through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The Canadian government has increased the maximum annual amount for the 2019-20 benefit year by $300 per child as part of its response to COVID-19. The government estimates the average increase for families receiving the CCB will be $550. Families will receive the extra benefit in their regular CCB payment in May. If you have previously applied for the CCB, you do not need to re-apply to receive this extra payment.


Q36. Who is eligible?

You live with a child under 18 years of age, you are primarily responsible for the care of the child, you're a resident of Canada for tax purposes, you or your spouse are one of the following: a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, a protected person, a temporary resident who has lived in Canada for 18 months and who has a valid permit to live in Canada for the 19th month, an Indigenous person who meets the definition of "Indian" under the Indian Act.

You cannot get the CCB for a foster child for any month in which Children's special allowances (CSA) are payable. You may get the CCB if you live with and care for a child under a kinship or close relationship program as long as the CSA is not payable.


Q37. How do I find out more about the CCB?

You go to the Canadian government website for the Canada child benefit or call 1-800-387-1193.


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