CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) Application Portal Now Available

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If you are an employee or self-employed person who has recently stopped working because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for the CERB program.  This program provides $500 per week for up to 16 weeks.  The government of Canada recommends that if you are an employee and eligible for EI, you should apply for the CERB before applying for EI, UNLESS you EI benefits would be greater than those receivable under CERB.

Who should apply?

The CERB is available to workers (both employees and self-employed individuals and partners) who:

  • Reside in Canada and are at least 15 years old
  • Have stopped working because of COVID-19 (unless voluntarily quit)
  • Who had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of application
  • Have had, or expect to have, at least 14 consecutive days without employment or self-employment income in the initial four-week period (March 15 to April 15)
  • Expect to have no income for the next 4 weeks

If you became eligible for EI benefits after March 15, 2020 and have already applied for EI, do not apply for the CERB.  Your application will automatically be transferred to the CERB program if it benefits you.

How do I apply?

The application portal for CERB can be found by clicking this link.  This will launch a wizard that will ask you a series of questions and take you through the application process.  The process does not appear to be difficult or confusing, but you should have your personal information such as social insurance number, Records of Employment you may have recently received, and your previous year’s personal income tax Notice of Assessment (may not  be required) available.

If you prefer to apply over the phone, have your SIN and postal code ready and call 1-800-959-2019.  But prepared for a long wait, so grab a book or the latest non-depressing news source to cheer you while you wait.

When should I apply?

While the application portal is active now, it is recommended that you apply on the day of the week specified for your birth month.  This is designed to relieve stress on the system, and to ensure that all applications can be handled in an orderly manner.

If you were born in the month of:

  • January, February, or March you should apply on Mondays, starting with April 6
  • April, May, or June you should apply on Tuesdays, starting with April 7
  • July, August, or September you should apply on Wednesdays, starting with April 8
  • October, November, or December you should apply on Thursdays, starting with April 9
  • Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are left open for any birth month, so if you miss your designated day, wait for one of those days.

What happens next?

If you are eligible for the CERB, you can expect $2,000 (in one payment) for each 4-week period for which you are eligible.  If you continue to be eligible for the CERB after the initial 4-week period, you will need to re-apply for each following 4-week period in which you continue to be eligible, up to a maximum of 16 weeks.

Once you have applied, you should expect payment within three business days, if you are registered for direct deposit with the CRA.  If you are not registered for direct deposit, expect a cheque in approximately 10 business days.  CERB benefits are taxable, and will need to be reported on your 2020 income tax return.

Need more information?