The Government of Canada has and continues to provide support to Canadians who face ongoing hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic. A few recent updates for those who have had their employment impacted by the pandemic, is a simplified Employment Insurance (EI) program, as well as new income support benefits to take effect as of September 27, 2020. To assist in the transition, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has been extended by 4 weeks, allowing for a maximum of up to 28 weeks of benefits.

The purpose of this program was designed to assist those who remain unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, provided they meet eligibility requirements, and to introduce new temporary and taxable recovery benefits to provide further support.

The eligibility requirements for the program consist of the individual having worked 120 hours in the last year to qualify for a minimum EI benefit rate of $400/week, for at least 26 weeks of regular benefits.

If eligibility requirements are not met for EI, there are three new income support benefits available as of September 27, 2020 for a period of one year:

1. Canada Recovery Benefit: For individuals (ie. self-employed) who require support as they remain unable to return to work due to COVID-19, or who have had their hours reduced since the pandemic and have not voluntarily quit their job. Employment and/or self-employment income needs to be at least $5,000 or more in either 2019 or in 2020. This benefit provides for $400/week for up to 26 weeks. Note, that if income is more than $38,000 (excluding the Canada Recovery Benefit), the claimant would need to repay some, or all, of the benefit through their income tax return.

2. Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: For individuals who are unable to work because they are sick and/or must self-isolate due to COVID-19. This benefit provides for $500/week for up to 2 weeks in a one-year timeframe. Claimants need to be employed or self-employed at the time of the application with income to be at least $5,000 or more in either 2019 or in 2020. Claimants must have missed a minimum of 60% of their scheduled work, in the week that they claim the benefit. Note, a medical certificate is not required to qualify, and the benefit is taxable.  

3. Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit: For individuals who are providing care to children who are under 12 years old, to support other dependents or providing care to a family member with a disability. The benefit provides for $500/week for up to 26 weeks per household. Individuals need to be employed or self-employed on the day immediately preceding the period for which the application is made, with income to be at least $5,000 or more in either 2019 or in 2020. Claimants must have been unable to work for at least 60% of their normal work week. Note, the claimant cannot be receiving paid leave from an employer in the same week, and cannot be receiving CERB, EI Emergency Response Benefit, Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, short-term disability benefits, workers compensation benefits or any EI Benefits in the same week. This benefit is taxable. 

The Canada Revenue Agency will provide further information as to how and when Canadians can apply at the following link:  www.canada.ca/coronavirus.

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