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).
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:
- Regular benefits: It depends on your situation. However, generally speaking, you will need between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment (based on the unemployment rate in your area).
- Sickness benefits, maternity and parental benefits, and caregiving benefits and leave: You need to show that you’ve accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the 52 weeks before the start of your claim, or since the start of your last claim, whichever is shorter.
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:
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:
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?
- Regular benefits: You can receive EI for 14 weeks and up to a maximum of 45 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate in your region at the time of filing your claim and the number of insurable hours you have accumulated in the last 52 weeks or since your last claim, whichever is shorter.
- Sickness benefits: You can receive up to 15 weeks of sickness benefits. The number of weeks of benefits you get depends on how long you’re unable to work for medical reasons.
- Maternity and parental benefits: The number of weeks of benefits you get depends on the benefit type you choose. You can estimate by using the online EI maternity and parental benefits calculator.
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:
- Review the eligibility criteria (mentioned above)
- Gather supporting documents
- Gather your personal information
- Complete the online application
- Provide supporting documents
- Receive a benefit statement and access code by mail
- 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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