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How to access new COVID-19 benefits and EI

Have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Here are a few government programs that you can access in these difficult times.

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing mass layoffs and forcing millions to stay at home, the federal government has announced new benefits and changes to Employment Insurance as part of a $27 billion direct aid package to Canadians.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced changes to EI to allow workers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to receive benefits immediately.

For those who do not qualify for EI, the government will soon be introducing two new programs for Canadians affected by COVID-19 — the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit.

Along with these programs, the government has also made other changes to temporarily alleviate the financial strain caused by COVID-19 shutdowns. 

Here are the new benefits:

Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit

This week, the government of Canada introduced new rules for receiving the Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit.

The Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit will provide individuals with up to 55% of their earnings (maximum $573 a week) if they cannot work for medical reasons.

What differentiates the COVID-19 Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit from standard EI? The one-week waiting period for benefits to kick in has been removed, and those being quarantined will not need to provide the government with a medical certificate.

Who qualifies?

Applicants who meet the requirements for EI in their respective region of Canada and cannot work or have lost their job because they are either sick or under quarantine. 

How to apply

In order to get the one-week waiting period waived, you must first complete a standard EI application online or at a Service Canada location and then call the government toll-free number at 1-833-381-2725, or teletypewriter at 1-800-529-3742.

It’s important to note that anyone displaying COVID-19 symptoms is not permitted to enter any Service Canada location.

Emergency Care Benefit 

The Emergency Care Benefit will provide eligible applicants with up to $900 bi-weekly for 15 weeks. This benefit will apply to workers, including those who are self-employed, who do not meet the requirements for Employment Insurance.

Who qualifies?

  • You must be either quarantined or sick with COVID-19

or

  • You must be caring for a family member who is quarantined or sick with COVID-19

or

  • You must be caring for children whose school or daycare has been closed

How to apply

The application for the Emergency Care Benefit will become available in April. Every two weeks recipients must reattest via phone, CRA MyAccount, or My Service Canada.

Emergency Support Benefit

The federal government has not yet released any specifics on what the Emergency Support Benefit will look like or how much each applicant will qualify for. So far, the Federal government has budgeted $5 billion for the benefit and has described it as long-term support.

Who qualifies?

The Emergency Support Benefit will provide an unspecified amount of money to Canadians who are currently unemployed but do not meet the requirements for Employment Insurance.

How to apply

Emergency Support Benefit applications will be available on CRA MyAccount in April.

Other changes

  • The due date for filing individual 2019 tax returns has been extended until June 1, 2020.
  • Taxpayers can defer money owed in the current income tax year until after August 31, 2020.
  • The GST credit maximum has been raised to $300 for adults and $150 for children.
  • Recipients of the Canada Child Benefit will get an increase of up to $300 monthly, per child, for the 2019-2020 benefit year for the 2019-2020 benefit year.
  • Beginning in April, all Canada Student Loan and Canada Apprentice Loan payments will be paused until September 30, 2020, and will not accrue interest.
  • Minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) will be reduced by 25% for 2020

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