Now that the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) has wound down, people who are still jobless are eligible for other federal financial supports to help get them through the next phase of the pandemic.
Millions of CERB recipients will transition automatically to employment insurance (EI). Expanded eligibility rules will also mean more people can qualify and the pandemic aid bill before the House of Commons this week — C-4 — includes three new replacement benefits.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough has said the changes aim to strike a balance between the need to avoid discouraging people from working and the need to support Canadians who, despite making an effort, still aren’t working or have significantly reduced hours.
To handle what’s expected to be an unprecedented number of EI claims and a record number of calls over the coming weeks, Service Canada has nearly doubled the number of specialized call centre agents. But it’s still warning people to expect long waits.
Here are some common questions about post-CERB benefits answered.
How do I make a claim?
Most people who were collecting CERB will automatically transition to EI, which will provide a taxable benefit of at least $500 a week, or $300 a week for extended parental benefits. EI claimants are eligible for at least 26 weeks.
Canadians who need to apply for EI include:
- People with 900-series social insurance numbers, such as temporary foreign workers and international students.
- Self-employed workers who received benefits through Service Canada.
- Canadians who received CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency but could have 120 insurable hours and could meet other eligibility criteria. CRA officials have started to proactively reach out to roughly 400,000 people in this category.
When will EI payments flow?
EI recipients are eligible at the end of the first two weeks they’re out of work.
That means people switching to EI from CERB will be eligible for their first payment as of October 11. More than 80 per cent of eligible Canadians using direct deposit can expect their first payment by October 14 — about three days after they become eligible.
People can check on the status of their claims online.
CERB paid out about $80 billion in benefits to nearly nine million people.
Can I work while claiming EI?
The rules allow claimants to keep all their work earnings while still receiving part of their EI benefits. Recipients forego 50 cents of the benefit for every dollar earned above $38,000.
What if I don’t qualify for EI?
The government created three new benefits for Canadians who don’t qualify for EI, providing a payment of $500 a week:
- The Canada recovery benefit is for the self-employed or gig workers who don’t qualify for EI.
- The Canada recovery sickness benefit is for workers who are sick or must self-isolate due to COVID-19.
- The Canada recovery caregiving benefit is for people who can’t work because they need to care for a child or dependent for reasons related to COVID-19.
The new benefits are included in Bill C-4, which is being debated in Parliament.
What do I need to do keep qualifying for EI?
Recipients must make “reasonable and ongoing job search efforts” while receiving EI. Those efforts can include reaching out to employers, preparing a resume or cover letter, registering and searching job banks and submitting job applications.