VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled on Wednesday a massive $82 billion financial aid package he promised would support Canadian people and businesses amid the economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The money – $27 billion in direct support and $55 billion in tax deferrals – could help you stay afloat if the virus has put you out of work.
The package, most of which still needs to be approved by Parliament, includes a streamlining and boost to employment insurance (EI), as well as new “emergency” benefits for people who don’t qualify for EI benefits.
Do I qualify for regular EI?
To qualify for EI benefits, you need to have lost employment through no fault of your own. That means if you quit, were fired with cause or are on strike, you can’t get EI.
The benefits you receive depend on where you live, how much you’ve worked in the last year and the unemployment rate in your area.
As part of the federal government’s response to the virus outbreak, it has waived the usual one-week post-employment waiting period to apply for EI.
Do I qualify for sickness EI?
To qualify for sickness EI, you need to show that: you can’t work for medical reasons, your income has dropped by more than 40 per cent for at least a week and you build up 600 hours of insured hours in the last year or since your last claim (whichever is shorter).
Trudeau said the Canada Revenue Agency will no longer require a doctor’s note to prove you’re sick. Instead, you will only need to provide an attestation.
I don’t qualify for EI. What do I do?
You might qualify for the emergency care benefit, which will provide a $900 check to some Canadians every other week for up to 15 weeks.
To qualify, you need to meet at least one of the following criteria:
- People who are in isolation or are sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for employment insurance (EI). This includes the self-employed, such as freelancers.
- Workers, including self-employed, who are unable to work because they are taking care of someone with COVID-19 – but do not qualify for EI.
- Parents who need to take care of kids who are at home due to school closures and aren’t receiving a paycheck from work. The emergency care benefit still applies if such a parent also qualifies for EI.
In addition to support for people who are unable to work for reasons related to the pandemic, the government has also said it will set up a $5 billion “emergency support benefit” for people who are facing unemployment but do not qualify for EI. Few details are available at this point, but the government said it will be available in April.
How do I apply?
You can apply for EI on the CRA’s website or in-person at a Service Canada office – but you’re not supposed to do that if you’re sick or in self isolation.
You can’t apply for the emergency care benefit yet, but the government has said it should be available in April (it needs to be passed by the House of Commons and receive royal assent first). Once it’s available, you will have three ways to apply: through the Canada Revenue Agency website, through a Service Canada account or by calling a toll free number (that hasn’t been announced yet).
What else is the government doing?
You can read a breakdown of the suite of new measures – including tax benefit increases, tax deferrals and student loan deferrals – the federal government announced Wednesday here.