COVID-19: Support for Canadians Facing Unemployment

Insights
| 3/31/2020

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

With many people worried about their health, employment, and their financial situation, the Government of Canada has taken a strong and immediate action to protect Canadians and the economy from the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic. To support workers and help businesses keep their employees, the government has proposed legislation to establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

The new CERB will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to eligible individuals.

Eligibility Requirements

The CERB taxable benefit will be provided to:

  • employees who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support; or
  • employees who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19; or
  • working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures; or
  • employees who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work; or
  • wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.

Canadians who are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits as of March 25, 2020 will continue to receive their benefits and should not apply to the CERB.

How to Apply

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal starting April 6. Applicants will also be able to apply by phone.

Find more information on the CERB and how to apply here.

Employment Insurance

Employment Insurance (EI) provides regular benefits to individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are available for and able to work. This could be due to a layoff due to a shortage of work, season or mass layoffs, or have reduced hours.

With the recent events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance benefits has been waived by the federal government.

It is best for individuals to apply for EI benefits as soon as they stop working. Individuals can apply for benefits even if they have not yet received their Record of Employment (ROE). With the recent pandemic, there has been an increase in filing for EI benefits. Do not delay filing a claim for benefits. Claims filed more than four weeks after the last day of work may result in a loss of benefits.

The basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of the average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum yearly insurable earnings amount of $54,200, or a maximum amount of $573 per week. The maximum number of weeks of EI regular benefits pay received can range from 14 weeks up to a maximum of 45 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate in your region at the time of filing your claim and the amount of insurable hours an individual has accumulated in the last 52 weeks or since the last claim, whichever is shorter.

Eligibility Requirements

The guidelines set out by Employment and Social Development Canada used to determine entitlement of EI regular benefits are outlined below:

An individual may be entitled to EI regular benefits if they:

  • were employed in insurable employment;
  • lost their job through no fault of their own;
  • have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;
  • have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of their last EI claim, whichever is shorter;
  • are ready, willing, and capable of working each day;
  • are actively looking for work, (individuals must keep a written record of employers they have contacted and when they were contacted).

For further information on eligibility information pertaining to specific situations, please visit EI regular benefits: Eligibility.

How to Apply

Applications must be submitted online and takes about 60 minutes to complete. The website has a step-by-step application process and provides detailed instructions on how to complete the form. Service Canada will require your email address to apply for EI benefits. If they are unable to reach an individual for more information about their claim, they will send an email advising the individual to call a Service Canada agent using a toll-free number.

For more information on how to apply, please visit here.

To apply for EI benefits, please visit here.

Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits

Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible individuals who are unable to work because of illness, injury, or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. Canadians quarantined as a result of COVID-19 can apply for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.

The exact amount you receive will be determined once your application is processed. You could receive 55% of your insurable earnings up to a maximum of $573 a week.

Eligibility
  • An employee is unable to work for medical reasons

Service Canada is ready to support Canadians affected by COVID-19 and placed in quarantine, with the following support actions:

  • The one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits will be waived for individuals with new claims who are quarantined so they can be paid for the first week of their claim.
  • Establishing a new dedicated toll-free phone number to support enquiries related to waiving the EI sickness benefits waiting period.
  • Individuals claiming EI sickness benefits due to quarantine will not have to provide a medical certificate.

People who cannot complete their claim for EI sickness benefits due to quarantine may apply later and have their EI claim backdated to cover the period of delay.

Important: If you are directly affected by COVID-19 because you are sick or quarantined and you have not yet applied for EI benefits, please submit your application before contacting Service Canada.

How to Apply

It is important to apply as soon as possible after an individual has stopped working. Waiting more than four weeks after the last day of work to apply may result in a loss of benefits.

To apply, visit the website here to submit your application.

Read Crowe MacKay’s COVID-19 Federal Update for a summary of the government’s support measures.

Provincial Support for Northern and Western Canada

Alberta

In addition to the support offered by the federal government, the Alberta Government will provide immediate funding and supportive measures to support employees. We have listed these for you below for ease of reference. For more information pertaining to these programs, please contact your Crowe MacKay Advisor.

Emergency Isolation Support

This is a temporary program to bridge the gap until the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit is available in early April.

Eligible working Albertans can receive a one-time emergency isolation support payment of $1,146 if they are required to self-isolate or are the sole caregiver of someone in self-isolation and they have no other source of pay or compensation.

Find more information on Alberta’s emergency isolation support and eligibility here.

If an individual is eligible for federal Employment Insurance benefits, they are strongly encouraged to apply immediately.

To apply, please check here.

90-day Utility Deferral

This program is available to Albertans who are experiencing financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19 who have lost their employment or had to leave work to take care of an ill family member.

The government is committed to ensuring Albertans have access to utilities during the COVID-19 outbreak and has directed utility companies that they cannot cut consumers off from these vital services.

The program is in place from March 18 until June 18, 2020.

The government will work with utility companies to develop a payment system to help consumers pay back their deferred utilities within a reasonable time period.

To arrange for a deferral, call your natural gas or electricity provider directly. You will need your account information. Please be patient as there may be higher-than-normal call volumes.

Learn more about the 90-Day Utility Deferral.

Job-Protected Leaves

Given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, there have been several changes to the Employment Standards Code. To cover the 14-day self-isolation period as recommended by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, changes to the Employment Standards code allow full and part-time employees to take 14 days of job-protected leave.

Eligibility

Employees are eligible if they are:

  • required to self-isolate; or
  • caring for a child or dependent adult who is required to self-isolate.

Employees are not required to have a medical note and do not need to have worked for an employer for 90 days.

The leave does not apply to self-employed individuals or contractors.

Please note that this leave may be extended if the advice of the Chief Medical Officer changes.

Read Crowe MacKay’s summary of Alberta’s response to COVID-19

British Columbia

B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers

The B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers will provide a one-time $1,000 payment to people who lost income because of COVID-19. The one-time payment will be paid in May 2020.

Eligibility

All BC residents who receive federal Employment Insurance, or the new federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit are eligible.

How to Apply

Applications for the one-time payment will open soon.

Learn more about the BC Emergency Benefit for Workers.

Job-Protected Leaves

There are several types of job-protected leaves. These leaves are different than ones that are covered by federal Employment Insurance benefits. There have been changes to these during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New COVID-19 Leave

During this public health emergency, employees can take this job-protected leave for the reasons outlined below as long as they need it, without putting their job at risk. The COVID-19 leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in British Columbia.

Once this leave is no longer needed, it will be removed from the Employment Standards Act.

Eligibility

An employee can take unpaid, job-protected leave related to COVID-19 if they're unable to work for any of the following reasons:

  • They have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are following the instructions of a medical health officer or the advice of a doctor or nurse;
  • They are in quarantine or self-isolation and are acting in accordance with an order of the provincial health officer, an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada), guidelines from the BC Centre for Disease Control or guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada;
  • Their employer has directed them not to work due to concern about their exposure to others;
  • They need to provide care to their minor child, a dependent adult, or someone who is their child or former foster child for a reason related to COVID-19, including a school, daycare or similar facility closure; or
  • They are outside of B.C. and unable to return to work due to travel or border restrictions.

Learn more about Job-Protected Leaves.

Renters, Homeowners, and People Experiencing Homelessness

In the event of job or income loss, funding for housing supports have been increased to ensure people can maintain their housing. BC Housing has temporarily suspended evictions of tenants in subsidized and affordable housing due to non-payment of rent.

How to Apply

The application process is under development. Information on basic eligibility is available on BC Housing’s website and the application process will be available online in early April.

Support for Monthly Bills

BC Hydro

Customers can defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty through the COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program and customers experiencing job loss, illness, or lost wages due to COVID-19 can access grants up to $600 to pay their hydro bills through the Customer Crisis Fund.

Learn more about COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program

Learn more about Customer Crisis Fund

ICBC

In response to the financial impact COVID-19 may have on ICBC customers, they are providing relief during this time. Customers on a monthly payment plan who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19 may defer their payment for up to 90 days with no penalty.

How to Apply

Due to high call volumes, ICBC customers are encouraged to use the online resource tool to apply for deferrals.

Learn more about  ICBC Response to COVID-19.

Learn more about Financial Supports in Response to COVID-19

Read Crowe MacKay’s summary on B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan

Northwest Territories

The Government of Northwest Territories has put together an initial economic relief package intended to work in conjunction with federal incentives under Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan; however, information is not readily available at this time. The government has indicated they will be establishing an Economic Relief and Growth Advisory Group. The purpose of this group is to help identify the economic impacts of the pandemic; represent the business community; and ensure that the items most critical to local economies and jobs are targeted for medium and long term government support. Of these supports, one of these mentioned was Income Assistance.

Income Assistance

Increased funding will be available for the Income Assistance program. No further details are available at this time that indicate what the increased amount will be.

The Income Assistance Program provides Financial Assistance to Northerners to help meet basic and enhanced needs. The program encourages and supports greater self-reliance to improve the quality of lives.

How to Apply

To apply, you must complete an application for income assistance and provide identification and information on your finances to a local ECE Service Centre.

Learn more about Income Security Programs

Learn more about Employment COVID-19 Updates

Learn more about the Northwest Territories COVID-19 Economic Relief

Read Crowe MacKay’s summary on the Northwest Territories’ COVID-19 Economic Relief Measures

Saskatchewan

Provincial support is available to help workers affected by COVID-19.

Job Protected Leave

There have been several amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act to help support employees affected by COVID-19. The amendments will ensure:

  • that employees can access unpaid public health emergency leave;
  • removal of the requirement of 13 consecutive weeks of employment with an employer prior to accessing sick leave; and
  • removal of the provision requiring a doctor's note or certificate.

Self-Isolation Support Program

The Self-Isolation Support program will provide $450 per week for a maximum of two weeks, or $900, to Saskatchewan workers.

Eligibility

Saskatchewan workers who are forced to self-isolate due to:

  • having contracted COVID-19, or are showing symptoms;
  • have been in contact with an individual infected with COVID-19; or
  • have recently returned from international travel and have been required to self-isolate;

AND

  • they are not eligible for compensation including sick leave, or vacation leave from their employer;
  • they do not have private insurance covering such disruptions; and
  • they are not covered by other programs such as federal employment insurance that has been updated.

Learn more here.

Read Crowe MacKay’s summary on Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 Provincial Response

Yukon Territory

The Government of Yukon’s economic supports for employees impacted by COVID-19 are summarized below.

Home Security during COVID-19

The Government of Yukon passed new regulations under the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. These regulations prevent evictions over the next 90 days for residential tenants who are self-isolating or unable to pay their rent on time due to COVID-19, and allows tenants to pay their rent late if they are unable to pay it when it is due.

Eligibility

This regulation applies to individuals who have:

  • lost their jobs;
  • are experiencing a reduction in income; or
  • are under a health protection measure.

A tenant who has lost their job or had their income reduced as a result of COVID-19 will be able to end the tenancy early without penalty. Tenants will have to pay the unpaid rent as soon as they are able to pay or after 90 days, whichever comes first.

Learn more here.

Paid Sick Leave Rebate Program

A new rebate program for Yukon employers has been introduced to support Yukon workers and self-employed individuals in response to the economic impacts of COVID-19. This Rebate Program allows Yukon workers without paid sick leave to stay at home if they:

  • become sick; or
  • are required to self-isolate while still meeting their basic financial needs.

Self-employed people are also eligible for this rebate.

No doctor’s notes are required by the employee or self-employed individuals.

How to Apply

All eligible Yukon employers and self-employed individuals may apply.

To apply, click here.

Yukon Nominees

Yukon nominees who experience layoffs or reduced work hours will not be issued the standard 90-day notice to find new employment.

 

Information is evolving rapidly and is current as of March 30, 2020. For details on changes or for more information, please contact your Crowe MacKay advisor for immediate support while navigating these uncertain times.

Contact Crowe MacKay LLP Today