cerb and ei

This is the difference between EI and CERB in Canada

Millions of Canadians who applied for the financial assistance from the federal government due to job loss and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have already received their first payment(s) to keep them afloat.

But some are still a little bit confused about next steps, and about what exactly the differences between the CERB and regular EI benefits are.

CERB stands for Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a new aid initiative that Prime Minister Trudeau announced on March 25 in response to the novel coronavirus crisis.

The CERB offers $2,000 a month to eligible residents who are currently out of work because of the virus, whether because their workplace has cut back or shut down operations, because they or a family member is sick and/or quarantined, or because they have to stay home to take care of younger children as daycares and schools are closed.

It was a designed to be "a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit," the Government of Canada website states. It also was made to cover individuals who are self-employed and/or on contract, who would not meet the criteria for usual EI benefits, as well as to cope with the unprecedented influx of EI applications.

EI, on the other hand, stands for Employment Insurance, a long-running government program that offers funds to eligible Canadians who recently lost insurable employment by no fault of their own (regular benefits), due to sickness (sickness benefits) or due to parental leave (maternity, parental, and caregiver benefits).

Those workers with insurable employment will have noticed a small premium for participation in the EI program deducted from each of their paycheques.

Unlike the CERB, EI is not always a set amount, but is based on an employee's pay at their former job.

After the novel coronavirus brought about sudden and unexpected layoffs, many turned to EI before the CERB was introduced. The Canada Revenue Agency then stated that all EI and sickness benefit applications made after March 14 would automatically be switched to the CERB program, which is more specifically geared to those impacted by COVID-19 situation. 

These residents are considered to be receiving the CERB via EI application, and are to receive $500 per week of lost work to add up to the same $2,000 per month.

After the CERB was created, people were asked to only apply for one or the other through their respective dedicated portals, and not for both. A select few who still applied for both may have ended up receiving double payments, which they will have to return to the government at a later date.

Some also received two cycles of CERB at once — one for the period of March 15 to April 11 and one preemptively for April 12 to May 9. These seeming double transactions will not have to be paid back, but it is worth noting that the money received from either the CERB or EI will be taxed next tax season.

Those who were already approved for or are receiving EI as of March 15 will be continuing with that program only, which necessitates online or telephone reports every two weeks to show that they are still eligible.

Citizens who are receiving CERB through EI will also need to make sure to keep on top of their reporting to continue to receive federal funds, while those who just applied through the CERB portal will need to re-apply every four week cycle.

Lead photo by

Kelly Sikkema/Pixabay


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