Pandemic HR: Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to help workers and businesses, including self-employed

Canada Emergency Response Benefit – New emergency funding program for workers

Last updated April 5, 2020 

The new Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will provide $2,000 per four weeks to workers* who have had their employment disrupted by COVID-19. The CERB will apply to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). It is available to those who have not already applied for EI or whose current employment is not supported by the temporary wage subsidy. Additionally, workers who are still employed, but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19, will also qualify for the CERB. The benefit will cover those who have lost employment due to COVID-19, as well as those who are sick, quarantined, caring for someone who is sick, or taking care of children who are not in school.

The application process for CERB will be available on April 6, 2020. Payments are to begin within 10 days of application, paid every four weeks, and be available to cover the period from March 15 until October 3, 2020.

To help manage the anticipated overwhelming volume of applications, the CRA has set up specific days for you to apply. Please use the following guidelines:

Day to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit
If you were born in the month of Apply for CERB on Your best day to apply
January, February or March Mondays April 6
April, May, or June Tuesdays April 7
July, August, or September Wednesdays April 8
October, November, or December Thursdays April 9
Any month Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays


*You are considered as a worker under the CERB Act if you are 15 years of old, a Canadian resident, and have a minimum income of $5,000 in 2019 or 12 months before the date of application from the sources of income mentioned in the Act. Sources of income mentioned are employment; self-employment; benefits paid under certain subsections of the Employment Insurance Act (not mentioned here to avoid confusion), and certain allowances paid for pregnancy, newborns or adoptions. (To read the exact definition, please follow the link of the Act as mentioned below).

The worker as defined by the Act and mentioned above is eligible if the below two conditions are met:

  1. The worker stopped the work for a minimum of 14 consecutive days in a four week period (or expect to not have work) due to reasons related to Covid-19.
  2. The worker did not receive any of the below:
    1. Employment or self-employment income
    2. EI benefits (subsection 2(1))
    3. Allowances under a provincial plan due to pregnancy, care for new-born children or newly adopted children
    4. Any other income as prescribed in the regulation.

Freelancers, home-based businesses, sole proprietorships, and partnerships are considered forms of self-employment.


Excerpt from Questions and Answers on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

“If I am in receipt of dividends am I eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

“Yes, as long as the dividends are non-eligible dividends (generally, those paid out of corporate income taxed at the small business rate).

“An individual could count this income towards the $5,000 income requirement to be eligible for CERB.”


EI eligible Canadians who have lost their job can continue to apply for EI here, as can Canadians applying for other EI benefits.

For more information including FAQs, visit Canada Emergency Response Benefit.



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