Coronavirus & relief benefits: The 5-minute summary

Coronavirus & benefits infographic

The coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the lives of so many Canadians. In response, the federal government has further evolved the relief it offers those struggling to navigate these unprecedented times. Here, we explain the key benefits for workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The main supports available 

A snapshot of the four main supports

Employment insurance (commonly called EI) is the federal government’s program to help people who are out of work. Due to the pandemic, the EI program has been temporarily expanded to cover more workers. In addition to EI, there are three pandemic relief programs. The result:

  • Those who have lost their job through no fault of their own can get EI regular benefits for up to 45 weeks. 

  • The Canada recovery benefit (CRB) is a $600 payment every two weeks, for up to 54 weeks. It’s available to those whose work has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and who don’t qualify for EI. This benefit ended on October 23, 2021.

  • The Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB) is a $500 weekly payment, for up to four weeks. It’s available to those who aren’t able to work at least 50% of the week because they’re ill or self-isolating due to the pandemic, or have an underlying medical condition that makes them more susceptible to COVID-19.

  • The Canada recovery caregiving benefit (CRCB) is a $500 weekly payment, for up to 42 weeks. It’s available to those who aren’t able to work at least 50% of the week because they’re caring for a child or family member affected by the pandemic.

Employment insurance regular benefits

If you’ve lost your job through no fault of your own — including for reasons related to coronavirus —  you may be eligible for EI regular benefits. These are temporary payments to help those who are out of work.

The federal government has made temporary changes to the EI program to help more workers access these benefits. The changes are set to expire on September 24, 2022. To qualify, you must:

  • in the last 52 weeks, have worked at least 420 hours in work covered by the EI program

  • have lost your job through no fault of your own (for example, if you were fired for misconduct or you chose to quit when you had other reasonable options, you wouldn’t qualify for EI)

  • have gone seven straight days without work or pay from a particular employer

There are more requirements. Here are the details

If you qualify and start your claim between September 26 and November 20, 2021, you receive at least $300 per week, but you could receive more. If you start your claim after November 20, the rules in place before the pandemic will apply. Your benefits will be 55% of your average weekly earnings. For very low income families with kids, there is a top up to 80% of average weekly earnings.

The benefits last for up to 45 weeks, depending on how many hours you worked in the last 52 weeks and where you live in BC. This chart shows how many weeks of benefits you could receive

Canada recovery benefit (CRB)

Alert!

The Canada recovery benefit ended on October 23, 2021. If you were eligible for a past period, you can apply until December 22, 2021. After that, applications will be closed for good.

The Canada recovery benefit (CRB) is intended to help those whose work has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and who aren’t eligible for EI. It may cover you if you’re self-employed and can’t work. Or if you’ve seen a reduction in your weekly income.

To qualify, you must meet all these criteria for the two-week period you’re applying for:

  • due to the coronavirus pandemic, you weren’t working or have seen your weekly income reduced by 50% compared to the previous year, 

  • you didn’t receive workers’ compensation, disability, or other recovery benefits,

  • you aren’t eligible for EI benefits,

  • you didn’t quit your job or reduce your hours voluntarily (unless it was reasonable to do so),

  • you reside in Canada,

  • you weren’t self-isolating or in quarantine due to international travel,

  • you’re age 15 or older, and

  • you made at least $5,000 in income in 2019, 2020, or in the 12 months before you apply.

The full requirements are spelled out here.

How much you get under the CRB depends in part on when you start receiving benefits. Those who start after July 17, 2021 receive $600 every two weeks. (The benefit is taxed at source, so this works out to $540 after taxes.)

Canada recovery caregiving benefit (CRCB)

The Canada recovery caregiving benefit (CRCB) is intended to help those who are unable to work because they’re caring for a child or family member affected by the pandemic. 

To qualify, you must be caring for a child under age 12 or a family member who needs supervision for one of the following reasons:

  • their school, daycare or other care facility is unavailable due to the pandemic,

  • their regular care services are unavailable due to the pandemic, or

  • the person under your care is ill, self-isolating, or at risk of serious health problems due to the pandemic.

As well, you must meet all these criteria for the one-week period you’re applying for:

  • you’re unable to work at least 50% of your usual work week because you’re caring for a child or family member,

  • you’re the only person in your household applying for the benefit,

  • you aren’t receiving paid leave from your employer,

  • you didn’t receive workers’ compensation, disability, or other recovery benefits,

  • you reside in Canada,

  • you weren’t self-isolating or in quarantine due to international travel,

  • you’re age 15 or older, and

  • you made at least $5,000 in income in 2019, 2020, or in the 12 months before you apply.

The full requirements are explained here.

The CRCB provides $500 per week, for up to 42 weeks. (The benefit is taxed at source, so the amount you actually get is $450.) 

Note only one eligible person per household can apply each week. If more than one person in your household is eligible, you can split the 42 weeks between you as long as no two people apply in the same week.

This benefit is available until November 20, 2021. The government is proposing an extension to May 7, 2022 with an increase to the maximum number of weeks.

Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB)

The Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB) is intended to help those who are unable to work because they’re ill, self-isolating, or at risk of serious health problems due to the pandemic.

To qualify, you must be unable to work at least 50% of your usual work week because you’re self-isolating for one of the following reasons:

  • you’re sick with COVID-19 or may have it,

  • you’ve been advised to self-isolate, or

  • you have an underlying health condition that puts you at greater risk of getting COVID-19.

As well, you must meet all these criteria for the one-week period you’re applying for:

  • you aren’t receiving paid leave from your employer,

  • you didn’t receive workers’ compensation, disability, or other recovery benefits,

  • you reside in Canada,

  • you weren’t self-isolating or in quarantine due to international travel,

  • you’re age 15 or older, and

  • you made at least $5,000 in income in 2019, 2020, or in the 12 months before you apply.

Here is a list of the full requirements

The CRSB provides $500 per week, for up to four weeks. (The benefit is taxed at source, so the amount you actually get is $450.)  

This benefit is available until November 20, 2021. The government is proposing an extension to May 7, 2022 with an increase to the maximum number of weeks.

Take action 

You’re no doubt wondering: Which benefits can I get? We can help you figure out which benefits you’re eligible for, and the steps to take action.

  • Reviewed in November 2021
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Time to read: 6 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Kevin Love, Community Legal Assistance Society

Kevin Love

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