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B.C.'S UNION SINCE 1919

Covid-19 Income Replacement Benefits

Introduction

During the COVID-19 pandemic, BCGEU members and their families are experiencing loss of income for a variety of reasons. This guide will explain as of April 17, 2020 what income replacement benefits are available, who is eligible for those benefits, and how to apply for them. Details are being updated rapidly so check back regularly. If you have questions or comments about this guide, please email communications@bcgeu.ca.


Step 1. Understand what income replacement benefits are available

Currently there are three income replacement benefits available directly from the Canadian government to workers whose income has been affected by COVID-19. These benefits are:

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The CERB is available for workers that - due to COVID-19 - have temporarily stopped working, reduced their hours, or lost their jobs; are sick or in quarantine; or need to care for a child or a family member, either because they are sick or because of a child care centre or school closure. The CERB may also apply to self-employed, contract workers and freelance workers. The CERB will pay $500/week for up to 16 weeks (or $2,000/month up to a maximum of $8,000 total) between March 15 and October 3, 2020. This benefit replaces two federal benefits that were previously announced: the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit.

Note:
  • Money you receive through the CERB are taxable. Therefore, federal and provincial taxes, where applicable, will be deducted from your payment.
  • Review these Frequently Asked Questions about the CERB

Employment Insurance (EI) provides regular benefits to individuals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own (for example, temporary or permanent lay-off due to shortage of work, or seasonal or mass lay-offs) and are available for and able to work but cannot find a job. EI benefits provide most people 55% of their weekly wage to a maximum of $573 per week for 14 to 45 weeks (depending on the unemployment rate in your region) or $54,200 yearly.

Note:
  • EI benefits are taxable. Therefore, federal and provincial taxes, where applicable, will be deducted from your payment.
  • Until September 30, 2020 the one-week waiting period for EI has been waived.
  • Any severance pay you received will be calculated as income and will delay the start of your EI benefit.
  • Employer salary top-ups, health benefit continuance, and pension play payments will be consider income unless you are part of a special plan (Supplementary Unemployment Plan or Work-Share Plan) and will be deducted from your benefits.

Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness Benefits (also referred to as Medical EI) provides financial support to individuals who are sick, in quarantine, injured or recovering from surgery and are unable to work either because of COVID-19 or another reason and do not have paid sick leave through their employer. EI Sickness Benefits provide most people with 55% of their weekly earnings up to a maximum of $573 per week for up to 15 weeks.

Note:
  • If you qualify for both CERB and either EI Regular Benefits or EI Sickness Benefits and apply for the latter between March 15, 2020 and September 30, 2020, your application will be automatically processed through the CERB program. This means that, no matter what you would have qualified for under EI, you will receive the full CERB amount for your benefit periods during these periods, and you will receive your EI amount for your remaining benefit periods.
  • If you are currently receiving EI benefits, they will continue and not be affected by COVID-19 or be replaced by the CERB.

Other benefits:

Depending on your situation, you may also be eligible for Workers Compensation, provisions from your collective agreement (such as Short Term Illness & Injury Plan (STIIP) or taking leave without pay), or other financial benefits from the federal government. You may also wish to explore with your employer the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, the EI Work-Sharing program or Supplemental Unemployment Benefits.

This guide will cover the three direct-from-government benefits listed above.


Step 2. Understand which benefit you are eligible for

There are many situations in which workers will be eligible for one or more of the available income replacement benefits. Use our flowchart below to help you identify which applies to your situation and use the proceeding information to verify your eligibility.

Click to enlarge flowchart (opens in a new tab):

Eligibility Criteria:

Once you’ve identified which benefits you believe you qualify for, double-check that you meet the relevant eligibility criteria.

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To qualify for the CERB, you need to:

  • Be residing in Canada
  • Be at least 15 years old
  • Have stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted your EI regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020;
  • Have not voluntarily quit your job;
  • Have earned at least $5,000 of income* in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date your application;
  • When submitting your first claim, cannot have earned more than $1,000 in income* for 14 or more consecutive days within the four-week period of your claim
  • When submitting subsequent claims, cannot have earned more than $1,000 in income* for the entire four-week benefit period
  • Have exhausted your EI regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020 and, due to COVID-19, cannot undertake your usual seasonal work or you are unable to find a job or return to work
* Income is considered to be from:
  • Employment
  • Self-employment
  • Provincial/federal benefits related to maternity, parental, pregnancy or adoption leave
  • Wages
  • Tips
  • Honoraria
  • Royalties
  • Non-eligible dividends

Pensions, student loans and bursaries are not employment income and, therefore, should not be included in the $1,000.

Applications will be verified against tax records to confirm income.

Full CERB eligibility details can be found here.

To qualify for EI Regular Benefits, you need to:

  • Have been employed in insurable employment (i.e., paying into the EI program through workplace deductions)
  • Lost your job through no fault of your own
  • Have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks
  • Be actively looking for work (and keep a written record of employers you contact and when you contact them) (not applicable between March 15, 2020 and September 30, 2020)
  • Complete bi-weekly reports to the government

You may not qualify for EI if you:

  • Voluntarily left your job without just cause (i.e., you quit)
  • Were dismissed for misconduct
  • Are unemployed because you are directly participating in a labour dispute
  • Are confined to jail, penitentiary or other similar institution

Full EI Regular Benefits eligibility details can be found here.

To qualify for EI Sickness Benefits, you need to:

  • Have a medical certificate (not applicable between March 15, 2020 and September 30, 2020)
  • Had your weekly earnings from work decrease by more than 40% for at least one week;
  • Accumulated 600 hours of insurable employment in the 52 weeks prior to the start of your claim.

Full EI Sickness Benefits eligibility details can be found here.


Step 3. Apply for your benefit(s)

Each benefit has its own application process and instructions which are determined by its respective administering body.

Note: If you qualify for both CERB and either EI Regular Benefits or EI Sickness Benefits and apply for the latter on or after March 15, 2020, your application will be automatically processed through the CERB program. This means that, no matter what you would have qualified for under EI, you will receive the full CERB amount for your benefit periods until October 3, 2020 and then your EI amount for your remaining benefit periods.

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The CERB is being jointly delivered by Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Only apply to one, not both. To determine which of these two agencies you should apply through, answer the question at the bottom of this page and follow the remaining prompts, or do the following:

  • If you were employed full-time (30+ hours per week) for at least 4 months last year OR part-time (less than 30 hours per week) at least 8 months last year, apply through Service Canada and the EI program:
  • If you were self-employed, OR employed part-time (less than 30 hours per week) for less than 8 months last year), OR receiving, but have now stopped receiving, provincial/federal benefits related to maternity, parental, pregnancy or adoption leave, apply through the CRA:
    • Online with CRA My Account
    • Over the phone with an automated phone service (you’ll need to confirm your Social Insurance Number (SIN) and postal code): 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041

If you apply through the CRA, they will direct you to apply on a specific day based on your birth month, to avoid crashing multiple government systems.

  • January/February/March birthdays - apply on Mondays
  • April/May/June birthdays - apply on Tuesdays
  • July/August/September birthdays - apply on Wednesdays
  • October/November/December birthdays - apply on Thursdays
  • Any month - apply on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays
Note:
  • If applying by phone to either Service Canada or the CRA, expect significant wait and application times as well as outages due to demand.
  • After you apply, you should receive your payment in three business days if you signed up for direct deposit or in about 10 days (by mailed cheque) if you did not.
  • You will need to re-apply for CERB each month. If you have made income, you will report them when you reapply. Note that, when reapplying, the income limit is $1,000 over the entire four-week period (not over 14 days as per your initial four-week period).
  1. Call 1-833-381-2725 to have the waiting period waived (expect long wait times on the phone)
  2. Gather your information. You will need the following on hand when you complete your EI application:
    • The first and last date of your employment.
    • Your Social Insurance Number (SIN). If your SIN begins with a 9, you need to supply proof of your immigration status and work permit.
    • Your mother’s maiden name.
    • Your mailing and residential addresses, including the postal codes.
    • Your complete banking information to sign up for direct deposit, including the financial institution name, bank branch/transit number, and account number. You can get this from your online bank account or a blank cheque.
    • Record of Employment (ROE). If your employer will not submit your ROE online, you can request a paper version from them and mail it to Service Canada at W-T Region, P.O. Box 245, Edmonton, AB T5J 2J1.
    • Note: Your application will NOT be processed until Service Canada has received your ROE.
    • Names, addresses (including postal codes), and phone numbers for all your employers during your qualifying period.
    • The gross amount (before deductions) of your “best” (i.e., highest earning) weeks in your qualifying period.
      • The number of weeks you can consider to be your “best” (i.e., highest earning) will range from 14 to 22, depending on the unemployment rate in your EI Economic Region. Find out how many weeks you can consider for your claim by entering your postal code here and selecting your city in the search results.
      • Your “best” weeks do NOT have to be consecutive.
      • You may add together pay from multiple employers per week.
      • If you earned tips as part of your pay, include “controlled” tips in your amount, but not “direct”. Read more information about the two types of tips.
      • In case you are audited, have available a copy of your paystubs, paycheques or bank statements proving deposit of your income.
      • To ensure you’re paid the maximum EI amount you’re entitled to, complete the Claimant Attestation form with the required information.
        Note: If you apply for EI between March 15 and September 30, 2020, your claim will be processed through the CERB program. This means that, no matter what you would have qualified for under EI, you will receive the full CERB amount for your benefit periods until October 3, 2020. You will then receive your EI amount for your remaining benefit periods.
  3. Once you have all the above information gathered, complete the online EI application form.
    1. Your information is saved for 72 hours (three days) from the time you start. If you don’t complete the application, you can come back to it later using a temporary password that you receive when you start your application.
    2. If you don’t complete the application within 72 hours, it will be deleted and you’ll have to start a new application.
    3. Once you’ve submitted your completed application (which must include your ROE), you will be supplied with a confirmation number - please write it down for reference later.
    4. If you realize after submission that you’ve made a mistake on your application, call the number listed on the webpage displayed after you submit.
  4. Receive benefit statement and access code
    1. Processing of your application by Service Canada may take up to three weeks due to overwhelming demand during the pandemic.
    2. If three weeks has passed since you submitted your completed application (including your ROE), call Service Canada toll-free at 1-800-531-7555.
    3. When your application has been successfully processed, you will receive a login number (digital ID) in the mail. Keep this information to complete the next step.
    4. Receiving the EI benefit statement doesn’t mean that Service Canada has made a decision about your claim.
  5. Submit your bi-weekly updates
    1. A requirement of receiving EI is supplying Service Canada with bi-weekly updates of your employment situation, including if you have found work.
    2. Submit your bi-weekly updates by calling 1-800-531-7555 or online through your My Service Canada Account.
    3. When calling Service Canada, agents will usually ask for the first two digits of your four-digit access code (mailed to you when your application was approved) and are trained to ask for the last three digits of your SIN. Generally, you will NOT be asked for your full SIN over the phone.
  1. Call 1-833-381-2725 to have the waiting period waived
  2. Gather your information and supporting documents
    • As part of the application process, you must obtain a medical certificate and your Record(s) of Employment (ROE). However, don’t wait until you have these documents to apply for EI Sickness Benefits; you can get them afterwards and send then in if Service Canada requests them.
    • Make sure you have the following information to complete your application:
      1. The names and addresses of your employer(s) in the last 52 weeks;
      2. The dates you were employed with each employer and the reasons you’re no longer employed with them;
      3. Your detailed explanation of the facts if you quit or were dismissed from any job in the last 52 weeks;
      4. Your full mailing address and your home address, if they are different;
      5. Your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
      6. Your mother’s maiden name
      7. Your banking information, including financial institution, branch (transit) number and your account number, to sign up for direct deposit
  3. Complete the online application
    • Apply as soon as you stop working. If you wait more than 4 weeks after your last day of work to apply, you may lose benefits.
    • The online application takes about one hour to complete.
    • Your information is saved for 72 hours (three days) from the time you start. If you don’t complete the application, you can come back to it later using a temporary password that you receive when you start your application.
    • If you don’t complete the application within 72 hours, it will be deleted and you’ll have to start a new application.
  4. Provide supporting documents
    • Medical certificate. You’ll need to get a medical certificate signed by a medical practitioner. Ask your medical practitioner to complete and sign either of the following:
      • Service Canada’s Medical certificate for Employment Insurance sickness benefits, or
      • Their own medical certificate form.
    • Your medical practitioner may charge a fee to provide you with a medical certificate. Service Canada does not reimburse this fee. Once you have your medical certificate, keep it for six years in case we require it later. Service Canada will contact you to let you know if you need to submit it after you apply.

      More information on medical certificates and practitioners.

    • Record of Employment (ROE). Employers issue a record of employment (ROE) to provide information on your work history. If your employer will not submit your ROE online, you can request a paper version from them and mail it to Service Canada at W-T Region, P.O. Box 245, Edmonton, AB T5J 2J1.
  5. Receive benefit statement and access code
    • Once your application is complete, Service Canada will mamil you a benefit statement including a 4-digit access code. You need this code and your SIN to inquire about your application and to complete bi-weekly reports.
    • Receiving the EI benefit statement doesn’t mean that Service Canada has made a decision about your claim.
  6. Review application status
    • To check the progress of your application, you can log in to your My Service Canada Account (which you can create when you receive your benefit statement and access code) or by contacting Service Canada.

Frequently Asked Questions

Maybe. Review the eligibility criteria for EI Regular Benefits or EI Sickness Benefits.
If you have exhausted your EI regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020, and meet all other CERB criteria, you may be eligible.
You are eligible for the CERB if you make less than $1,000 per month due to reduced work hours, are a seasonal worker, or have exhausted your EI regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020.
Workers who make less than $1,000 per month qualify for the CERB.
  • If you are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits, you will continue to receive your benefits and you should NOT apply to the CERB until those benefits end.
  • If you’ve already applied for EI and your application hasn’t yet been processed, you’ll automatically be applied for the CERB instead. If you are still unemployed after the 16-week period covered by the CERB, you can then apply for EI regular or sickness benefits if you qualify.
Don’t panic. A million people per day applied for CERB or EI and those applications are being processed by hardworking union members facing incredible demand. Both the CRA and Service Canada will sort out any overpayments at tax time next year. Continue to complete your bi-weekly reports (ideally online).
If you became eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits before March 15, 2020, your claim will be processed under the pre-existing EI rules. You will NOT receive the CERB.
Apply for EI. Even though you will receive the CERB ($500 per week for 16 weeks) which may be different than the amount you qualify for under EI rules (may be more or less than $500 per week), doing so will establish your claim for after the 16-week period of CERB.
Yes. If your EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, you may apply for other benefits including the CERB.
  • Yes. The CERB provides benefits to individuals for four four-week periods (total of 16 weeks) between March 15, 2020 and October 3, 2020 and allows you to make up to $1,000 per four-week period in all periods except your initial period (in which you cannot have earned more than $1,000 in income for 14 or more consecutive days).
  • Be sure to track how much of the CERB you receive in case, at tax time, it is determined that your income did not qualify you for as much and in which case you would need to return some or all of the benefit.

Sources used to prepare this guide