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CERB and EI: What programs can I apply for?


Not sure whether you can still apply for CERB? What about employment insurance (EI)? Financial support from the federal government can be confusing. The information below should help you understand and navigate income support that may be available if you are not able to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CERB in a nutshell

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was a temporary program created by the federal government. CERB provided financial support to workers who either stopped working or experienced negative effects of their work as a result of the pandemic.

If individuals met various criteria, they were paid $500 per week for a maximum of 28 weeks. We explained how CERB worked here.

The CERB program has now ended, but it is possible to apply for CERB benefits retroactively. You have until December 2, 2020 to apply for the CERB for periods between March 15 and September 26, 2020. You will find information on how to apply here.

EI modifications effective September 27, 2020

Employment Insurance is for individuals who lose their employment through no fault of their own and are available for and able to work.

The federal government has introduced temporary changes to the EI program to provide income support to individuals who remain unable to work due to the pandemic. These changes will be in place for one year in recognition of the fact that the labour market is unstable.

Three important modifications to the EI program relate to (1) the required number of insurable hours, (2) the minimum benefit rate, and (3) the minimum period a person can receive EI benefits.

Required insurable hours

The required number of insured hours worked has decreased. Prior to the pandemic, an individual had to have worked between 420 and 700 insured hours since their last EI claim to apply for EI. The new requirement is 120 insured hours worked in the last year. This is because the federal government is providing a one-time credit of either: (a) 300 insured hours if you’re applying for regular benefits; or (b) 480 insured hours if you’re applying for sickness, maternity, parental or caregiving benefits.

Minimum benefit rate

The minimum amount an individual will receive is $500 per week, or $300 per week for extended parental benefits, prior to tax deductions. Prior to the pandemic, the minimum benefit rate was calculated at 55% of an individual’s weekly earnings.

Minimum period for receipt of benefits

Qualifying individuals will receive EI benefits for at least 26 weeks. Prior to the pandemic, the period an individual could receive EI ranged from 14 to 45 weeks.

Information on how to apply for EI is available here.

New benefits for persons who don’t qualify for EI

What should you do if you don’t qualify for regular EI benefits? This post sets out several new income support benefits that you may be able to access.


If you have questions about government benefits, please contact Clio Godkewitsch.

Special thanks to Goldblatt Partners’ former articling student, Sara Ageorlo, who assisted with this blog post.