It’s a challenging time for many Canadian businesses as so many have had to limit their operations or shut down temporarily and downsize their workforce in the wake of measures to control the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19)

As an employee and a newcomer in Canada, you may qualify for government programs if you’ve been affected by the current situation. Two major programs that you can apply for are Employment Insurance (EI) and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) ended on September 26, 2020, and the government has introduced other benefits to assist workers who are still impacted by the pandemic. Learn more about it in our article, The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) – What you should know

While EI has always been available as a benefit to the Canadian workforce, the government introduced CERB as additional support for those affected by COVID-19. Let’s get to know these programs in detail and understand their application process. 

Employment Insurance (EI), Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), and their eligibility

EI is monetary compensation provided by the government to employees or workers who are unable to continue working. 

There are different types of EI benefits with varied eligibility criteria; some key categories are:

  • Regular benefits: For individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own (for example, due to shortage of work, seasonal or mass lay-offs) and are available for and able to work, but can’t find a job. The eligibility guidelines differ by occupation and province. The government encourages individuals to apply and then determines their eligibility with help from processing agents. 
  • Sickness benefits: For individuals who are unable to work due to medical conditions that prevent them from working, such as illness, injury or quarantine. Once you apply, a Service Canada agent will determine if you are eligible for benefits. 
  • Maternity and parental benefits: For individuals who are away from work because they’re pregnant or have recently given birth as well as those who have to care for their newborn or newly adopted child. Upon applying, a Service Canada agent will determine if you are eligible. 
  • Caregiving benefits and leave: For those who take time away from work to provide care or support to a critically ill or injured person or someone needing end-of-life care. As a caregiver, you don’t have to be related to or live with the person you care for or support, but they must consider you to be like family. After applying, a Service Canada representative will determine if you are eligible for benefits. 

It is advisable to apply for EI benefits as soon as you stop working. You can apply for benefits even if you have not yet received your Record of Employment (ROE). If you delay filing your claim for benefits for more than four weeks after your last day of work, you may lose benefits.

Number of hours of employment needed to qualify for EI benefits:

If you’re confused about the type of EI you qualify for, you can use the Benefits Finder.

The COVID-19 scenario:

The coronavirus pandemic has affected businesses and employees negatively. If you’re unable to go back to work due to being in quarantine, you can apply for EI sickness benefits. To support those affected by COVID-19, the government has:

  • Waived the one-week waiting period for new claimants so they can be paid for the first week of their claim.
  • Established a new dedicated toll-free phone number (1-833-381-2725) to support enquiries related to waiving the EI sickness benefits waiting period.
  • Lifted the requirement to provide a medical certificate. 
  • Added the option for people to apply later and have their EI claim backdated to cover the period of delay.

If you don’t qualify for EI, you can check your eligibility for the newly introduced, Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). [Note: This replaces the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit.] 

As part of the CERB, the government has provided a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to:

  • Workers who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • Working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
  • Workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.
  • Wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.
  • Seasonal workers and those who have recently run out of employment insurance.
  • People who make less than $1,000 a month due to reduced work hours.

The CERB is accessible through a secure web portal. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number. Find more information on the CERB questions and answers page

Calculating EI benefits

Irrespective of the EI category of benefits you are applying for, you will be informed of the exact amount only once your application is processed. 

To get generic estimates, if you’re applying for regular or sickness benefits, for most people, the basic rate used for calculation is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to $54,200 annually (as of January 1, 2020) or a maximum amount of $573 per week. If you’re applying for maternity and parental benefits, you can use the calculator available on the government website to estimate your benefits.

How long do EI benefits last?

The process of applying for EI

The documents required for applying for EI vary by the type of benefit. The complete list of documents for regular benefits, sickness benefits, maternal and parental benefits, and caregiving benefits can be found online.     

Steps in the EI application process:

  1. Review the eligibility criteria (mentioned above)
  2. Gather supporting documents 
  3. Gather your personal information
  4. Complete the online application
  5. Provide supporting documents
  6. Receive a benefit statement and access code by mail 
  7. Review application status

Service Canada will mail you a benefit statement once your application is complete. This statement will include a 4-digit access code and the information you need to complete your reports. Receiving the EI benefit statement does not mean that Service Canada has made a decision about your claim. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled authorities and the public to adopt precautionary and relief measures of varying degrees. As a newcomer in Canada, this might seem scary and stressful. We, at Arrive, are doing our best to provide a steady stream of meaningful content to newcomers like yourself so you can stay informed and be aware of all the resources and job postings that are available to you in this trying time. Stay positive and be healthy. We are here for you. Together, we can get through this.  

 

 

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Disclaimer:
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.