Workers and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for part of the $82 billion aid package announced Wednesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. That includes $27 billion in direct support in unemployment benefits for those struggling to find work or caring for family members.
The package, now before Parliament, is intended to adjust the rules on who qualifies for Employment Insurance (EI) and includes two emergency benefits for those who do not.
Emergency benefits are not yet available, but the government has issued guidance on who can apply and how much relief Canadians can expect. Here’s how it’s going to work.
Who Qualifies For The Benefits?
Whether you qualify for EI will still depend on your specific situation, such as the local employment rate and the number of hours worked in the last 52 weeks. The government recommends that people apply as soon as possible to find out if they qualify.
Waiting more than four weeks after your last day of work means that you could lose access to those benefits. Additionally, you must have lost your job through no fault of your own, including lay-offs, to receive regular EI. Also, EI sickness benefits include not being able to work due to illness or quarantine.
Under recent amendments, the one-week waiting period for sickness benefits will be waived for those who have been told to self-isolate or quarantine. This means that applicants can be paid for the first week of their claims.
If approved, the maximum amount paid for the EI will be $573 per week.
Workers — including self-employed workers — who are quarantined or ill with COVID-19 may apply, as can those who stay at home to take care of a non-qualified family member with COVID-19. Parents staying at home to take care of children due to school closures are also covered and may apply whether or not they qualify for EI.
The Emergency Support Benefit will give up to $5 billion to workers who are not eligible for EI unemployment benefits. It is intended to provide long-term income support, but the government has not yet stated how much it will offer or how long it will provide such support.
How To Apply For The Benefits?
Applicants usually need a medical certificate along with employment records. However, the new rules allow quarantine workers to apply without the former. If you can’t use it because you’re quarantined, you can also file for EI sickness benefits later and have your claim backdated.
You can visit the website to apply for EI benefits. Subsequently, you may request that a one-week waiting period be waived by calling the government toll-free number at 1-833-381-2725 or by teletypewriter at 1-800-529-3742.
It is also possible to apply to a Service Canada office in person. However, those with symptoms or in self-isolation or quarantine are advised not to visit.
If you lose a job, the EI can provide a partial income replacement. Please note that payments are treated as taxable income. The applicable federal and provincial taxes will be deducted.
You can get EI unemployment benefits anywhere from 14 weeks to a maximum of 45 weeks. It depends on the rate of unemployment in your region and the number of insurable hours you have accumulated in the last year.
The Emergency Care Benefit And The Emergency Support Benefit
The Emergency Care Benefit provides up to $900 every two weeks for up to 15 weeks for those affected by COVID-19. It’s intended for those who don’t qualify for EI, who can’t go to work, and who haven’t paid sick leave.
In addition to regular EI payments, there are associated revenue programs. Benefits are available to those who qualify when they are ill or when they have (or adopt) children. This also applies to people who provide compassionate care for someone who is sick, including their critically ill children.
The conditions of employment vary with the local unemployment rate. A minimum of 420 hours of work in the preceding 52 weeks is required in areas of high unemployment (over 13 percent) and 700 hours in areas of low unemployment (less than 6 percent).
New entrants or re-entrants must have worked a minimum of 910 hours. EI used to be called unemployment insurance and it was never intended to replace a full-time salary. Instead, think of it as a bandage that helps you heal the wound of joblessness.
This benefit is used when money is needed to provide a buffer against misfortune. Don’t let pride prevent you from applying if you find yourself losing your job amid the pandemic.