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How to Apply for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) Online or by Phone

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In late March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which aims to help eligible Canadians affected by COVID-19 with a $2,000 per month payment, for up to four months.

With so many Canadians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic financially, here’s a brief overview of what you need to know when it comes to applying online or by the phone for CERB, such as eligibility, requirements, payment schedules and more, based on information from this page of the government website.

When Can I Apply for CERB?

According to the federal government’s website, Canadians can apply for CERB starting April 6, 2020, either online through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or by telephone.

Each time you apply for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), you are applying for $2,000, paid at $500 per week. The government says, “If your situation continues, you can re-apply for a payment for multiple 4-week periods, to a maximum of 16 weeks (4 periods).”

Each payment of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) covers a 4-week period, beginning March 15, 2020, says the government.

Who is Eligible for CERB? According to the government, it’s for those…

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  • residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
  • who have stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits;
  • who had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application (may be from a combination of employment; self-employment; maternity and parental benefits under the Employment Insurance program and/or similar benefits paid in Quebec under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan); and
  • who are or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period.

The government says CERB is “only available to individuals who stopped work and are not earning employment or self-employment income as a result of reasons related to COVID-19. If you have not stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the Benefit.”

If you’ve already applied for EI benefits, or are already receiving an EI benefits payout, you do not need to apply.

The government gives examples of stopping to work below, which could include but are not limited to:

  • You have been let go from your job or your hours have been reduced to zero;
  • You are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19;
  • You are away from work to take care of others because they are in quarantine, sick due to COVID-19; and/or
  • You are away from work to take care of children or other dependents whose care facility is closed due to COVID-19.

You cannot quit your job voluntarily, says the government.

When Can I Apply for CERB?

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There is a staggered application process starting April 6, 2020, based on the month you were born in, to prevent the system from being overwhelmed.

Here’s when you can apply…

  • Mondays: those born in January/February/March
  • Tuesdays: those born in April/May/June
  • Wednesdays: those born in July/August/September
  • Thursdays: those born in October/November/December
  • Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays: any month

The government says April 6 would be “your best day to apply” if you are part of the Monday group, April 7 for the Tuesday group, April 8 for the Wednesday group, and so forth.

How to Apply for CERB: Two Ways (Online or Phone)

Applications for CERB start Monday, April 6, 2020, through an online application or automated phone service.

a) Online with CRA My Account

  1. Sign in to your CRA Account. Go to COVID-19: Canada Emergency Response Benefit in the alert banner at the top of the page
  2. Select the period you want to apply for
  3. Declare that you qualify for the benefit
  4. Confirm we have the right payment information

b) Over the phone (automated service)

  1. You’ll need your social insurance number and postal code
  2. Call 1-800-959-2019 and follow instructions to enter the info above, plus the period you are applying for.
  3. Declare you are eligible for the benefit

How and When Will I Get Paid from CERB?

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  • Within 3 business days if you have signed up for CRA direct deposit
  • Roughly 10 business days if you aren’t signed up for direct deposit (cheque)

Do I Need to Declare my CERB Payments? 

CERB benefits are taxable and “you will need to report any payments received on next year’s tax filing.” The government says an information slip will show up for your 2020 tax year in “My Account” under “Tax Information Slips (T4 and more).”

Again, when you apply for CERB benefits, you’re only applying for a 4-week period which gives you $2,000. You’ll have to repeat the process if you need another 4-week payment period, for a maximum of 16 weeks.

As of writing (Sunday, April 5), the government says its online My Account portal will soon be temporarily unavailable starting from 11pm EDT on Sunday, April 5, until 6am EDT on Monday, April 6, in preparation for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) launch. If you’re part of the group applying on Monday, it may be worth signing in right now to double-check your account.

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