Important Info about Income Support

In late March, the two main federal EI income supports (the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit) were combined into a new support called the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This benefit started becoming available on April 6th.

The CERB provides eligible Canadians with $2000 every four weeks, for a maximum of sixteen weeks. This adds up to a total of $8000 (before taxes).

So far, it has been relatively easy to apply for. There is also very little screening process in place. This has meant that pretty much everyone who applies for it gets approved – including people who are not actually eligible. The government has stated that individuals who receive the CERB, but who are not eligible will eventually need to pay the money back. Right now it’s not clear how or when this will occur, but the government has indicated that people will not be charged interest on this debt.

How to apply?

There are three ways to apply:

1. Online via Service Canada –

2. Online via your Canadian Revenue Agency account –

3. Over the phone by calling 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041

Phone Instructions

1. Select your language preference: English or French

2. Follow the prompts to enter your information, including:

    • Your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
    • Confirmation of your postal code
    • The period you are applying for

3. Declare that you qualify for the benefit

Who is eligible?

  • Workers have had to stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • 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 .
  • Workers 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 .
  • Wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.

When do I apply?

To streamline the process, people are being asked to apply on different days of the week based on the month they were born.


What does it mean that the income is ‘taxable’?

Because the CERB is considered taxable income, everyone who receives it will need to declare it when they file their income taxes. For people making $44,470 or less per year, the combined tax rate will  be 20.5% (15% federal and 5.05% provincial), or around $410 per payment. So low-income people who receive the full CERB payment, could theoretically end up owing  $1,640 when they file their taxes.