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The coronavirus pandemic has hit the world economy hard. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is the most notable and the biggest aid measure that the Canadian government has announced so far. The CERB aims to ensure that no Canadian has to choose among getting enough food for themselves and their families, safeguarding their health, caring for a loved one family member, or paying for their medication.

The CERB – What is it?

It’s a monthly taxable government payment of $2000 for up to four months that will be given to help those struggling with job loss or other situations that have triggered a sudden loss of income because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who will benefit from the CERB?

Canadians can apply for the CERB if they:

  • are quarantined or sick or caring for someone who has been affected by COVID-19
  • must stop work and have got no paid leave or other income support
  • are still employed but have been laid off temporarily and asked by their employers not to come to work
  • are working parents who have been forced to stay at home, without pay, to look after their children
  • are a contractor or self-employed, and thus, won’t otherwise qualify for EI (employment insurance)

A secure web portal will make the CERB accessible from April 6 as was announced by Justin Trudeau – the Canadian Prime Minister. Canadians will be able to apply through a toll-free number and an automated telephone line as well. The CERB would be paid every 4 weeks and made available from March 15 to October 3, 2020. Within 10 days of application, Canadians can expect to start getting their CERB payments.

EI benefits vs. the CERB

In mid-March, there was a huge influx of applications for EI, which was over 10 times the preceding one-week high. The Canadian EI system wasn’t designed to handle this unparalleled high volume of applications. To give Canadians a breather to battle these tough times, the government announced that all citizens who have stopped working because of COVID-19 would be able to get the CERB, irrespective of whether they are eligible for EI or not, to make sure they have timely access to the income support they require. Government will start a portal in the first week of April to apply for CERB.

This means in case you’re already getting regular and sickness benefits under EI, you’ll continue to get such benefits and shouldn’t apply to the CERB. However, you can apply for the CERB after your EI benefits come to an end provided they end prior to October 3, 2020 and you’re incapable of returning to work due to COVID-19.

If you’ve already applied for EI but your application hasn’t been processed yet, there’s no need to reapply. If you’re jobless after the 16-week period that the CERB covers, and are eligible for normal EI benefits, you would still be able to access those EI benefits.

Bill Morneau – Canada’s Minister of Finance, said the CERB was a step taken by the government to do whatever was needed to safeguard the health and safety of Canadians along with offering adequate support for families, workers, and businesses. He said the CERB would ensure that money from the government reaches the hands of the workers as soon as possible to support them in their hour of need, and also lend a helping hand to businesses to let them retain their employees during this difficult phase. Primarily, this aid measure, he said, is to tell Canadians that the government has got them covered as they battle these difficult times. Morneau also assured Canadians of the government’s readiness toward taking any and all needed actions as the nation continues to deal with these challenging times by standing together.

Diane Lebouthillier – the Canadian Minister of National Revenue, said the government comprehends how all Canadians have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Through the CERB, the government would give much-needed financial support to people who’ve become jobless or lost their source of income due to COVID-19. Lebouthillier added that the Canada Revenue Agency is playing a significant responsibility of helping Canadians get the benefit payments quickly.

As people’s personal and professional lives have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, the CERB is a welcome step by the government to support Canadian workers and businesses. By helping Canadians pay for necessities like groceries and housing, and helping businesses retain and pay their employees as well as their bills during these uncertain times, the Canadian government will not only make lives easier but even help stabilize the economy.

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