The threat of Coronavirus to our country came swiftly, putting many Canadians out of work and facing serious financial certainty.
Our government’s quick response and implemented measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has proven to prevent massive amounts of cases and undue strain on our healthcare system.
While Energy Sector workers are considered essential, this situtation has still left many Canadian Oilfield families dealing with the financial hit and scrambling to figure out how they are going to continue on iwth a reduced income, or no income at all.
Conflicting information has us facing the COVID-19 crisis for anywhere between two more months to two more years.
Canadians need to be financially prepared. Thankfully, our government is prepared to implement the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
What is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?
In March, the federal government passed an emergency package, dedicating $107 billion to support those who are economically impacted by the pandemic.
“The hard truth is people are out of work because of this crisis and worried about what comes next,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “So I want you to know that we’ll be there to help you. Our government is doing everything we can to be there for you.”
One of the benefits passed in this emergency package is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is a monthly $2000 payment available for Canadians whose income has been affected by COVID-19.
The benefit will be paid out at $500 per week and made available for a period up to 16 weeks.
Do I Qualify for the CERB?
There are requirements in order to quality for the CERB. You are eligible if you meet the following criteria:
- You are a resident of Canada.
- You are 15 years of age or older at the time of the application.
- You have stopped working (or will stop working) because of reasons related to COVID-19.
- You have stopped working due to illness related to COVID-19.
- You have stopped working or will stop working for at least 14 consecutive days within the 4 week benefit period (CERB benefits are applied for every 4 weeks).
- You have not left your job voluntarily.
- You are not receiving Employment Insurance benefits for the same benefit period (EI benefits applied for related to COVID-19 will be transferred to CERB benefits).
- You have earned a minimum of $5000 in income within the last 12 months or in the 2019 calendar year.
This $5000 income may be from any of the following sources: employment, self-employment, maternity and parental benefits (under the EI program and/or Quebec Parental Insurance Plan.
How Can I Apply for the CERB?
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit can be applied for through the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) website or phone number.
Applications open on Monday, April 6th, but you can prepare for the application by ensuring that you have access to your CRA account.
Accessing Your CRA Account
If you do not currently have an accessible CRA account, visit this link to begin the process.
Click on the button that says “Sign in to a CRA account”. On the next page, choose the button on the farthest left that says “My Account”.
To register your account, you will have to complete 2 steps:
1.Provide Your Personal Information
You will have to provide your Social Insurance Number (SIN), date of birth, current postal code and an amount entered on your income tax return (have a copy of your return handy) from last year or the year before.
You will then be prompted to create a CRA user ID and password. Do not lose these!
Lastly, you will be prompted to create security questions and answers. Be sure to choose questions and answers that are easy for you to remember.
2. Enter the CRA Security Code
After you have signed up, you will notified that a security code will be mailed to your address within 10 days or you can call the CRA at 1 800 959 8281 (press * to be connected to an agent) to retrieve it.
Once you have received your code, return to My Account for Individuals, select “CRA login” and enter your user ID and password. Then enter your security code.
There is an alternative to using a user ID and password by using a Sign-In Partner. This option allows you to sign into your CRA account through your online banking account.
Applying for the CERB
Beginning on Monday, April 6th, you can apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit through your CRA account.
However, to avoid overwhelming the system and crashing the site, the CRA has set up the following schedule for applying based on the month you were born:
- January, February and March: April 6th (Mondays)
- April, May and June: April 7th (Tuesdays)
- July, August and September: April 8th (Wednesdays)
- October, November and December: April 9th (Thursdays)
- Any Month: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
The reason why there are days of the week associated with each group of birth months is because the CERB needs to be applied for every 4 weeks.
For example, if your birthday falls in April, you will make your initial application on Tuesday, April 7th. Four weeks later, you will make your next application on a Thursday (May 5th).
Once your application is submitted, you will receive your first benefit payment within 3 days if you have direct deposit or within 10 days if you are having the amount sent by cheque.
What Other Benefits Are Available?
While the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is being implemented to help Canadians who are unable to work due to COVID-19, there are many other benefits available as well.
Child Tax Benefits
The government is providing an increase of Child Tax Benefits. Eligible recipients will receive $300 more per child with their May payment. If you are already signed up to receive Child Tax Benefits, you do not need to reapply. This top up will automatically be applied.
Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC)
The government is also providing a one-time increase in GST payments. This is expected to be implemented by early May.
This boost will double the maximum annual amount which means approximately $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples.
Small Business Wage Subsidy
Eligible employers can receive a temporary wage subsidy for 3 months. These employers include those eligible for the small business deduction, unincorporated employers, non-profit organizations and charities.
Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs)
The minimum withdrawal rate for RRIFs will be dropped by 25% for 2020. Those receiving variable benefit payments under a defined-contribution pension plan should expect a similar decrease.
Delayed Tax Filing Deadline
The deadline for having taxes filed is now June 1st and payments can be deferred until September. The CRA has also halted debt collection for the time being.
Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits
In order to apply for EI sickness benefits, you are not currently required to provide a medical certificate.
Student Loan Payments and Interest
All student loan payments and accrual of interest are being halted between March 30th and September 30th.
The Importance of Flattening the Curve
While providing financial support during this time will certainly help alleviate a burden off the shoulders of many Canadians, the important thing right now is to flatten the curve in order to end social distancing and isolation as soon as possible.
Flattening the curve means staggering the number of new cases over a longer period of time. This provides those who do catch COVID-19 better access to healthcare in order to recover.
You can help flatten the curve by employing the following practices:
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Maintain social distancing (this means staying at least 6 feet away from other individuals, except for those you live with).
- Only visiting stores to shop for essentials.
- Seeking medical care for fevers, coughs and difficulties breathing.
- Isolating yourself in quarantine for 14 days if you suspect you have come into contact with the virus (either through travel or community spread).
Since there is no vaccine yet available for Coronavirus, everyone has a responsibility to prevent the spread of this aggressive virus.
And, thankfully, we have financial support as we do so.