CERB explained

🇨🇦 Ryan Gauss (@RyanMGauss) | Twitter

This coming Monday, the application portal to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit -CERB- will open.

CRA is already anticipating an overload on the system and has broken down application days by month of birth. The breakdown is here.

The Agency has also provided more details in regards to eligibility. I will kindly summarize them for you.

Some details remain unclear though. I’ll make a note of them too.

Eligibility criteria

To apply, you need to meet ALL of the following conditions:

  • You’re a worker -either employed or self-employed- and your hours have been reduced to zero due to Covid-19
  • You have sustained a total loss of income in the last 14 days
  • You are not expected to earn any income in subsequent periods
  • You are at least 15 years old
  • You reside in Canada
  • You’ve earned a minimum of $ 5 000.00 in 2019; These 5K can come from employment income, self-employment income, EI benefits…They’re not mutually exclusive.

You can’t combine CERB with any other income, except…

The only other income you can receive with CERB is from a province or territory that has implemented support payments in response to Covid-19.

If you are receiving any other type of income, you’re not eligible.

Here is a breakdown for different situations:


  • Laid-off because of Covid-19, do or don’t qualify for EI
  • Sick with Covid-19, do or don’t qualify for EI
  • Hours reduced to zero because of virus, either employed or self-employed; do or don’t qualify for EI
  • Taking care of a relative sick with Covid-19
  • Taking care of your children because of schools/daycares closure
  • EI benefits exhausted after March 15th, still not working and earning income
  • Receiving other Covid-19 support payments from province/territory

Not eligible

  • Still working and receiving income
  • No longer working but paid by employer (lucky you!)
  • Employer on wage subsidy program, i.e. paying you
  • Hours reduced but not eliminated, still receiving partial income
  • Job slated to start soon, including students with Summer jobs
  • Receiving any EI benefits: employment, sickness, maternal/parental
  • Receiving pension or income from RRIF
  • Receiving income assistance
  • Receiving disability payments from insurance co. or gvt
  • Students who didn’t have jobs prior to Covid-19
  • Stay-at-home parents prior to Covid-19
  • People who resigned/voluntarily quit job
  • Loss of income/job for other reasons than Covid-19 or prior to March 15th (apply for EI, if you qualify)
  • Unemployed & not on EI prior to March 15th, even if job-searching
  • On unpaid leave of any kind, i.e. not working, not earning
  • Didn’t earn 5K in 2019

As you can see, a lot of people will not qualify for CERB. Many Canadians might be in for a rude awakening.

It’s unclear if you would qualify if a job offer is rescinded due to Covid-19. I guess it would depend on your situation when you accepted the offer.

If you’re eligible for EI, apply for EI first

Technically, you could apply for CERB first, even if you’re eligible for EI. But it’s best to apply for EI first.

It will provide you with benefits for an additional period of time. Once your claim is up, you can then apply for CERB if you’re still not working, and the program is still available.

It’s also unclear whether you will be redirected to Service Canada when applying for CERB and being eligible for EI.

If you have already applied for EI, you don’t need to apply for CERB.

Amount, length and taxes

The amount is a flat $ 2 000/month, regardless of how much you made prior to applying.

It’s available for a maximum of 4 months. You need to re-apply every month.

This benefit is taxable, however CRA will not withhold any income tax.

No documentation required…yet

Upon applying, you only need to certify you meet the eligibility criteria.

However, CRA may ask you for documentation later on. Keep this in mind, particularly if you want to game the system…

Final word

There will be cases that are not listed above. Further clarifications may also be addressed later on. If you apply for CERB, please share your experience by commenting below.


  1. I applied for CERB online via my CRA account. The process was very quick and easy, probably because the agency has your info on file, such as your SIN. I only had to certify that I met the eligibility requirements and verify my direct deposit info.
    The website was operating normally -no crash-.
    It does mention making false declarations is a criminal offence and that if found out not eligible, you’ll have to repay the amount.


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