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Michael’s soapbox

2020-03-29T10:48:14-04:00 March 25, 2020|COVID-19|

Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act

As you will know, on March 17, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced that it was declaring an emergency under section 7.0.1(1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.  The order was confirmed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and will remain in effect until March 31, 2020 (the order may be shortened or extended).  The purpose of the order is to “promote the public good by protecting the health, safety and welfare of the people of Ontario in times of declared emergencies”.

A number of Regulations have now been passed:

As noted, the government of Ontario, on March 24, 2020 passed Reg 82/20 which lays out the essential services that can continue to operate after 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. 

Businesses that are not essential services can continue to operate remotely without attending at the place of business, for the purpose of,

(a) providing goods by mail or other forms of delivery or making goods available for pick-up; and

(b) providing services online, by telephone or other remote means.

The federal government, after some back and forth and accusation of “power grab” by opposition parties, passed Bill C-13 An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19.

Bill C-13 introduces a Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act (“CERB”) which authorizes the making of income support payments to workers who suffer a loss of income for reasons related to COVID-19.  The benefit is payable to people who don’t qualify for EI benefits, including self-employed.  The Act provides that:

6 (1) A worker is eligible for an income support payment if
(a) the worker, whether employed or self-employed, ceases working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period in respect of which they apply for the payment; and
(b) they do not receive, in respect of the consecutive days on which they have ceased working,
(i) subject to the regulations, income from employment or self-employment,
(ii) benefits, as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Employment Insurance Act,
(iii) allowances, money or other benefits paid to the worker under a provincial plan because of pregnancy or in respect of the care by the worker of one or more of their new-born children or one or more children placed with them for the purpose of adoption, or
(iv) any other income that is prescribed by regulation.

A worker does not “cease working” if they quit their employment voluntarily.  This benefit will be available to many workers, including those who wouldn’t normally qualify for EI benefits (e.g. self-employed), who are impacted by COVID-19.  The benefit would be available in a wide range of situations.  For example, where the worker is laid-off or terminated, are sick, quarantined, or who are required to take care of someone who has COVID-19.  The benefit is also available to working parents who have to stay home without compensation to care for children who are home because of schools being closed.

The maximum duration of the benefit is 16 weeks and the employee will be paid $2000 a month.  Eligible workers would start receiving CERB benefits 10 days after their application and would be paid every four weeks and be available from March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020.  It should be noted that there is a repayment obligation in the event that it is determined that the individual is not should not have received a payment under the CERB or that there has been an overpayment.  The Act provides:

12(1)  If the Minister determines that a person has received an income support payment to which the person is not entitled, or an amount in excess of the amount of such a payment to which the person is entitled, the person must repay the amount of the payment or the excess amount, as the case may be, as soon as is feasible.

The government has indicated that it hoped to have the online portal for applying for the benefit up and running by April 6, 2020.

The government is also encouraging Canadians who are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits not to apply to the CERB.  They have indicated that:

If their EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, they could apply for the CERB once their EI benefits cease, if they are unable to return to work due to COVID-19. Canadians who have already applied for EI and whose application has not yet been processed would not need to reapply. Canadians who are eligible for EI regular and sickness benefits would still be able to access their normal EI benefits, if still unemployed, after the 16-week period covered by the CERB.

For a high level explanation of the benefit see Government introduces Canada Emergency Response Benefit to help workers and businesses.