Basics, Wellness

COVID-19: Applying for EI and Other Income Benefits

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COVID-19 is a health crisis, but it will have immediate and lasting impacts on your financial health. This article is meant for anyone who’s income has been affected due to COVID-19.

Update (April 4th, 2020):

CERB: Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Here are the quick facts that we know so far:

  • applications available April 6th (through the MyCRA account or on the phone and payments could be within one or two days through e-transfer or 10 days through the mail

  • Click here for the latest information on the Government of Canada website

  • $2,000 per month to last for up to four months

  • Laid-off workers who have applied for EI due to coronavirus-related job losses may be eligible for this benefit if they have not yet been helped through EI

  • the benefit income will no longer be taxable

  • After 4 months, EI will step in as normal if you are still out of work

  • can be used for employees temporarily laid off

  • available to anyone who is at least 15 years old and who had a total employment income of at least $5,000

  • The CERB is available from March 15th to Oct 3,, 2020. Applications are allowed until Dec. 2, 2020. Payments will be retroactive to the data of eligibility

Do you qualify? Yes if you fit any of the following criteria:

  • workers who are sick

  • must be at least 15 years old and have earned $5,000 in 2019 or in the last 12-month period before you applied.

  • parents with sick family members or with kids at home due to closures

  • self-employed workers who are losing work

  • self-employed workers who are closing up shop due to the virus

  • workers who are still employed but whose pay has been reduced to zero. You expect to be without employment or self-employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days within the first four-week period. For the rest of the benefit periods, you expect to have no employment income.

How to Apply:

  • If you were born between January and March, Mondays are your day to apply.

  • People born in April, May, and June can apply on Tuesdays.

  • People born in July, August, and September can apply on Wednesdays.

  • Anyone who celebrates a birthday in October, November, or December can apply on Thursdays.

  • Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays will be a free-for-all.

  • If you applied for EI on or after March 15th, your claim will be automatically processed through the CERB.

Things we don’t know yet:

  • if there will be any other conditions (as EI currently has) and what they will be – we haven’t seen the application process yet!

  • what documentation will be required to prove lost work and income

  • Lots of the details above can change, as we have seen happen a lot

Steps to take before applying:

  • If you aren’t sure if you will be eligible, for now, apply for EI anyway

  • Get your documentation together, we are still not sure what eligibility will look like or what will be asked for

  • Update your direct deposit info on your MyCRA account

  • A MyService Canada account will still handle the EI applications

We have included more government financial remedies below.

Read: The Ultimate Financial Guide to COVID-19: How to Protect Your Finances During the Coronavirus Crisis.

EI and Other Income Supplements

As many Canadians are either not working or only partially working at this time, Employment Insurance (EI) benefit access rules have changed. Everybody is not eligible for EI. EI is still worth applying for, especially if you believe you are eligible. It is not totally clear if the CERB will be available to everyone or how they will measure eligibility. The idea is that if you don’t get one, you should get the other.

NOTE: Check your provincial resources here. Many provinces offering one-time cash payments and other supports.

If you are self-employed/employed or a contractor:

READ: COVID-19: Benefits for small businesses and the self-employed

Step 1: Are you eligible for EI?

Usually, once you have registered and waited 12 months from confirmed registration, you could qualify for EI as a self-employed person under the “special benefits” provision if:

  • You have reduced the amount of time devoted to your business by more than 40% because:

    • your child was born;

    • you are caring for your newborn or adopted child or children;

    • you are ill, injured, or in quarantine;

    • you need to provide care or support to a gravely ill family member; or

    • you need to provide care or support to your critically ill or injured child

  • AND you have earned a minimum amount of self-employed earnings during the calendar year preceding the year you submit a claim. This amount may change from year to year. If you want to apply for benefits in 2020, for example, you would need to earn at least $7,279 in 2019;

  • Medical note requirements have been temporarily waived due to COVID-19.

NOTE: We recommend submitting an application if you are unsure, rules are changing constantly and have become more flexible. Wait times are waived.

COVID-19: All your Coronavirus Job Security Questions Answered Here

Step 2: How Does EI Work

Generally, EI is based on the number of hours worked in the last 52 weeks and the maximum amount paid out for EI is $573 a week.

Workers who can’t apply because they are sick or quarantined, can also file for EI sickness benefits at a later date and have the claim backdated.

Anyone looking to apply for the new EI benefits, can visit the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) website and follow the five steps.

Step 3: Applying for EI

Gather supporting documents – You must have your records of employment (ROEs), Service Canada advises people to apply right away even if you don’t have these documents as you can send them in later.

Complete the online application– This includes making sure you have: the names and addresses of your employers in the last 52 weeks, the dates employed with each employer and the reasons you’re no longer employed

Provide supporting documents- You can visit My Service Canada Account (MSCA) to view ROEs that have been issued to you by past and current employers.

Receive access code by mail – Service Canada will mail you a benefit statement, which includes a 4-digit access code. You need this code and your SIN to get updates about your application and to complete biweekly reports.

Review your application status

If you are self-employed, you need to be registered here.

If you are sick or unable to work due to injury, illness or quarantine, you can apply for EI sickness benefits here.

If you have been placed in quarantine and cannot work, Service Canada has committed to the following measures:

  • Priority EI applications for quarantined Canadians

  • No medical certificate requirement

  • Reviews of the waiting period on a case-by-case basis

  • A new telephone line established to assist with applications and the waiver of the waiting period. Call 1-833-381-2725 (toll-free).

If you are not eligible for EI

See update at the top of this article.

Be sure to check your provincial updates for changes to sick leave policies. Most companies should be doing their best to offer paid sick leave. Currently, Alberta has committed to a lump sum payment for workers. Click here to learn more, details still to come.

Check other affiliated organizations like your unions, professional organizations and more for potential income support.

There are deferrals for utility payments for up to 90 days in Alberta across most organizations.

Can I just stop going to work because I don’t feel safe?

The answer depends on whether your workplace represents a reasonable likelihood that you will become infected. You may refuse to perform your job if it is likely to endanger you.

You cannot be fired for refusing to work due to COVID-19 if you, in good faith, belief you will become infected. Without a reasonable and good faith belief, your job and/or wages could be placed in jeopardy.

This will be based on public health authority recommendations posted on municipal, provincial and federal websites.

Managing Your Money During the Covid-19 Crisis

We cannot stress enough how critical it is to eliminate any unnecessary expenses at this time. Conserve your cash, do not buy anything you don’t need, recalculate your budget to reflect your new reality. As we don’t know how long or how severe the isolation will be, it is going to be critical to make the money you have now work best for you. Organizations that are employing workers today may not be able to continue doing so. Consider living on less, try a no-spend month, order in food less and, if possible, find ways to reduce your bills.

Utility companies for power, cable, internet, hydro, gas and more are offering different measures to help their clients through the crisis. Take the time to reduce expenses where you can.

Remember, just because there is an announcement of refunds, it doesn’t guarantee that you will get one. There are many cases of fine print or delays in these refunds. Now is the time to be very careful and focused on your financial life.

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