Ever since the federal government launched the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, there have been many questions about the funding. One of the biggest ones is who can apply for the CERB. While the relief funds are available to anybody, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay it back eventually. If you’re choosing not to work, the government will probably want their cash back.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, otherwise known as the CERB.
Its aim is to help workers across Canada who may have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing $2,000/month for up to four months. In recent weeks, the criteria has been updated to include freelancers, gig workers, and those working reduced hours.
For the time being, the money is actually available to anybody, as the government is automatically approving all applications.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody qualifies for it. When application eligibility is checked at a later date, anybody ineligible who claimed the money will be asked to pay it back.
According to the federal government, this includes people who are actively choosing not to work.
This means that if you tell your employer that you're not prepared to come into work, or you refuse a recall to work, you may have to pay back the amount received from the benefit.
Please note: You are not eligible for the #CERB if you quit your job. Have questions? Check out our Questions and A… https://t.co/AFfgQAOdHR— Employment and Social Development Canada (@Employment and Social Development Canada)1587816000.0
According to the CERB criteria, a person must have lost their income as a result of their employer's decision or the pandemic, not as the result of a personal decision.
Therefore, if you’re able to work and work is available to you, but you choose not to go, then you aren't entitled to the monthly benefits.
The Financial Post warns that if you refuse to return to work, you can be considered as having resigned which would make you ineligible for the CERB.
The #CERB is here for Canadians who stopped working due to #COVID19 and earned no more than $1000 within the 4-week… https://t.co/bJ1PXG0RCR— Employment and Social Development Canada (@Employment and Social Development Canada)1587748452.0
Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. If you cannot work because you have COVID-19, or you're caring for somebody who has the disease, you can still apply for the benefit.
Additionally, anybody caring for children who can’t attend school or daycare is also able to claim the CERB.
If you're immune-compromised and feel you cannot safely return to work, you're required to get a letter from your doctor. In this case, staying at home would not be considered a refusal to work.
Finally, if you feel your workplace isn't able to provide safe conditions during the pandemic, you can engage in a formal work refusal. More information can be found here.
This week, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called on the federal government to make the funding available to all Canadians, regardless of their individual circumstances.
Singh argued that many people who are in need of financial assistance due to COVID-19 are currently excluded from the benefit criteria, and they should be able to access support if they need it.
If you’ve applied for the CERB, remember that you’ll need to reapply every month to ensure your benefits continue.
There are other factors to be mindful of as well. The $2,000 monthly payout is taxable, and you may have to repay a portion of it during tax season next year, depending on how much you earn.
One financial planner told Global News that, if you can, it's a good idea to save at least 20% of your monthly relief payout for this reason.
Plus, Canadian students are now eligible for a separate financial aid payout, called CESB. This pays qualifying postsecondary students $1,250 per month from May to August.
However, it's important to note that while some students may be contenders for both the CESB and the CERB, they can't double-dip. Applying for both will disqualify you from the $2,000/month payout.
While the process of getting your cheque is quite straightforward, it's always a good idea to ask all the important questions and do your research.