Last month, the federal government directed billions of dollars toward a new benefit that puts money straight into the pockets of citizens who have lost income because of COVID-19.
It's called the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, and it provides $2,000 every month to Canadians who’ve been financially affected by the pandemic.
If you've claimed the benefit, have just applied, or are thinking of applying, you'll already know all of the basic information like whether or not you're eligible and how much you're entitled to. But with tons of new COVID-19 information circling the web every day (like EI, CESB, and the new CEWS), it can be hard to stay up-to-date with the benefits you're receiving.
Here are 10 things you should know if you're claiming (or thinking about claiming) Canada's CERB:
1. CERB payments are taxable
Starting on April 6, Canadians impacted by #COVID19 will be able to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit… https://t.co/QzrrDt1OX4— CanadianPM (@CanadianPM)1585782794.0
Although income tax will not be deducted from your CERB payment, you must report it as income on your tax return for the 2020 tax year. The amount of tax you'll actually have to pay back will depend on a variety of factors, like how much money you've made throughout the year. If you make under $12,000, it's possible you won't even have to worry about income taxes next year.
2. You should get your money every four weeks
Those who are eligible for the CERB will receive $2,000 every four weeks. You can expect your first payment within 10 days of applying.
3. You can only receive CERB for up to 16 weeks
The CERB is available from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020. However, you can only receive the CERB for up to 16 weeks, or four months, within that time frame.
If you haven't claimed the CERB yet, you have until December 2, 2020 to apply for payments retroactive to that time.
4. More people qualify than you might think
Among other requirements, the CERB is available to workers residing in Canada who are at least 15 years old and have stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for EI.
Beyond that, Canadians who are self-employed, making up to $1,000 a month, and some seasonal workers and artists are also able to qualify.
5. The new CEWS is not the same as CERB
While the new Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and CERB overlap to a certain degree, they're not the same. CEWS covers 75% of employee wages for eligible businesses.
The CRA will start processing applications on May 4, according to federal officials. The subsidy is capped at $847 per week per worker for up to 12 weeks, starting retroactively on March 15 and ending on June 6.
6. You'll have to pay it back if you get re-hired with Canada's new wage subsidy
If your company re-hires you with Canada's new CEWS, you'll have to pay back any CERB payments you may have received.
In a press conference on Monday, the Prime Minister made it clear that claiming both COVID-19 benefits would not be tolerated, saying, “It’s one or the other, not both.”
7. You can't claim both CERB and EI
In a press conference earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canadians can either collect EI or the CERB, not both.
If you have stopped working because of COVID-19, you should apply for the CERB — even if you're not eligible for EI.
8. You need to renew your eligibility after every four week period
Enrollment in the CERB does not renew automatically, so you need to make sure to confirm your continued eligibility each four week period.
9. Some students may not qualify for CERB, but they will for the new CESB
Some students already know that they don't qualify for CERB, but there's still good news: the federal government has just announced a $9 billion financial aid program called CESB.
It will give monthly payments of $1,250 to post-secondary students whose education and job prospects are disrupted by COVID-19. The payments will run from May through August and can increase to $1,750 for people with disabilities or who care for others, according to reports.
10. You can repay the CERB if you later find out you're not eligible
If you realize you're actually not eligible after you've applied for CERB, you have the option to return or repay a CERB payment. The same applies if you return to work earlier than expected. The options for returning or repaying the CERB payment will differ depending on whether you've chosen to receive direct deposit or cheques.
The good news is our government is (for the most part) delivering when it comes to providing some much-needed financial aid.
The bad news? It seems as tough whether you're eligible and receiving CERB or have received payments and find yourself to later become ineligible, you'll have to pay at least some money back to the government.
A good way to keep your finances in check while we navigate this super uncertain time is to get on top of your bills.
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