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What COVID-19 income support do I qualify for in Ontario?

 

As the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, many continue to struggle with its financial impact. In light of this, both the federal and provincial governments have implemented various income support benefits and programs to help those who have been hurt financially during these trying times.

This post will highlight key information with regards to the income support benefits available to those affected by COVID-19, including information about who qualifies and what steps they can take next.

This post will address the following questions:

  1. I have been laid off. What income support do I qualify for?
  2. I am a seasonal worker. What COVID-19 income support do I qualify for?
  3. I am self-employed or on contract. What COVID-19 income support do I qualify for?
  4. I work for a small business. What COVID-19 assistance does my employer qualify for that could help me?
  5. I am on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW). What COVID-19 income support do I qualify for?
  6. I am a student. What COVID-19 income support do I qualify for?
  7. I am a parent with school age children. What COVID-19 assistance do I qualify for?
  8. I am a senior. What COVID-19 income support do I qualify for?
  9. Do I qualify for the Ontario Emergency Assistance Program?

1. I have been laid off. What income support do I qualify for?

Employment Insurance

If your employment has been terminated without cause, you may be eligible for employment insurance (EI) regular benefits, which provide temporary income support to individuals who lose their wages due to job loss or temporary layoff. To qualify you must meet the following criteria:

  • you were employed in insurable employment;
  • you lost your job through no fault of your own;
  • you have been without work and without pay for at least 7 consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;
  • you have worked the required number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter;
  • you are ready, willing and capable of working each day; and
  • you are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of employers you contact)

If you qualify, you may be eligible for up to 55% of your insurable weekly earnings to a maximum of $573 per week for a maximum of 45 weeks. As of January 1, 2020, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $54,200.

You can apply for EI regular benefits here. If you are not eligible for EI regular benefits, you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (see below).

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

If you have been laid off, you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

CERB is a taxable benefit that provides $2,000 a month for up to four months to workers who lose their income due to reasons related to COVID-19. To qualify, you must:

  • reside in Canada and be at least 15 years old;
  • have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or be eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted your Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020;
  • have had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application;
  • have not quit your job voluntarily; and
  • have earned $1000 or less in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the initial four-week benefit period of the CERB claim. For subsequent periods, you cannot receive more than $1,000 in employment or self-employment income for the entire four-week period.

You can apply for CERB either through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Service Canada.

Some workers may be eligible for both EI benefits and CERB. Those who are already receiving EI benefits will continue to receive them and should not apply for CERB. However, those who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19 may qualify for CERB.

The advantages of CERB compared to EI will depend on each worker’s circumstances. Workers who meet the maximum insurable earnings cap of $54,200 a year can receive approximately $2,300 every four weeks through EI. This is more than CERB’s $2,000 per month limit. Workers who qualify for both CERB and EI may want to consult us about their options.

Termination and Severance Pay

If your employment has been terminated without cause, you may be eligible for termination and severance pay under employment standards legislation:

  • Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) if your employment is regulated by the province; or
  • the Canada Labour Code (CLC) if you work in a federally regulated workplace such as a bank.

The ESA and CLC establish a minimum floor of entitlements:

  • Under the ESA, you may be entitled up to a maximum of 8 weeks of termination pay and up to a maximum of 26 weeks of severance pay.
  • Under the CLC, you may be entitled to two weeks of termination pay regardless of the length of service. You may also qualify for severance pay in an amount of five days wages at your regular rate of pay plus two days wages at your regular rate of pay for each year of employment completed with the employer.

Read the following blog posts for entitlements For more information about entitlements under the ESA and under the CLC.

Common Law Reasonable Notice

If your employment is terminated without cause, you may be entitled to common law reasonable notice pay provided that your employment contract does not state that you are only entitled to minimum standards for notice and severance under the ESA or CLC.

In many cases, common law reasonable notice can amount to one month per year of service, or more. When calculating reasonable notice periods at common law, the courts consider the following non-exhaustive factors:

  • the character of the employment;
  • the employee’s length of service;
  • the age of the employee; and
  • the availability of similar employment, having regard to the experience, training and qualifications of the employee.

2. I am a seasonal worker. What COVID-19 income support do I qualify for?

If you are a seasonal worker who has exhausted your Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits and are unable to undertake your usual seasonal work as a result of COVID-19, you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

CERB is a taxable benefit that provides $2,000 a month for up to four months to workers who lose their income due to reasons related to COVID-19. CERB is available to workers who:

  • reside in Canada and are at least 15 years old; 
  • have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020; 
  • had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; 
  • have not quit their job voluntarily; and 
  • have earned $1000 or less in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the initial four-week benefit period of the CERB claim. For subsequent periods, you cannot receive more than $1,000 in employment or self-employment income for the entire four-week period. 

You can apply for CERB either through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Service Canada. For more information about CERB, read our blog post here.

3. I am self-employed or on contract. What COVID-19 income support do I qualify for?

If you are self-employed or on contract and have suffered a loss of income for reasons related to COVID-19, you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

CERB is a taxable benefit that provides $2,000 a month for up to four months to workers who lose their income due to reasons related to COVID-19. CERB is available to workers who:

  • reside in Canada and are at least 15 years old; 
  • have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020; 
  • had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; 
  • have not quit their job voluntarily; and 
  • have earned $1000 or less in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the initial four-week benefit period of the CERB claim. For subsequent periods, you cannot receive more than $1,000 in employment or self-employment income for the entire four-week period. 

You can apply for CERB either through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Service Canada. More information about CERB can be found in this blog post.

4. I work for a small business. What COVID-19 assistance does my employer qualify for that could help me?

The Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy (TWS)

The Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy for employers is a three-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deduction required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The subsidy is equal to 10% of the remuneration an employer pays from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, up to $1,375 for each eligible employee to a maximum of $25,000 total per employer. If no remuneration is paid to employees during this period, then no subsidy is available.

The following are eligible employers:

  • individuals (excluding trusts);
  • partnerships;
  • non-profit organizations;
  • registered charities;
  • Canadian-controlled private corporations (including cooperative corporations) eligible for the small business deduction.

Eligible employers must have an existing business number and payroll program account with the CRA on March 18, 2020. They must also pay salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration to eligible employees.

Businesses do not need to show a decline in revenue for this program. During the three-month period, eligible employers can access the subsidy by reducing the payroll deductions they remit to the CRA, among other ways.

Some employers may be eligible for both the Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy and the 75% Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) (discussed below). Any benefit from the Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy paid in a specific period will reduce the amount available to be claimed under the CEWS for that same period.

Click here for more information about the Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy.

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

Small Canadian businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), a program aimed at preventing job losses and meant to encourage the rehiring of laid off workers.

The CEWS is a subsidy of 75% of employee wages for up to 12 weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020, to June 6, 2020. To qualify for the CEWS, an employer must have suffered a drop in gross revenues of at least 15% in March, and 30% in April and May. The maximum amount for the wage subsidy is $847 per week. The federal government has stated that employers must make their best efforts to top-up employees’ salaries to bring them to pre-crisis levels.

Employers who are eligible for the CEWS are also entitled to receive a 100% refund for certain employer contributions to Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Pension Plan, and the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan paid in respect of employees who are on leave with pay.

Some employers may be eligible for both the Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy (discussed above) and the CEWS. Any benefit from the Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy paid in a specific period will reduce the amount available to be claimed under the CEWS for that same period.

You can find more information about the CEWS here.

The Work Sharing Program

The Work Sharing Program is an Employment Insurance (EI) program designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs.

Under a Work-Sharing agreement, which involves employers, employees and Service Canada, employers can reduce the employees’ working hours by 10% to 60%. To help compensate for the days or time not worked, eligible employees may receive EI benefits.

To be eligible for the program, employers must:

  • be a year-round business in Canada in operation for at least one year;
  • be either a publicly held company, a private business or a not-for-profit organization;
  • have at least two employees in a Work Sharing (WS) unit, which is a group of core employees with similar job duties who agree to participate in the WS program and to reduce their normal working hours over a specific period of time. The WS unit is required to reduce its hours of work by 10% to 60%.

To be eligible for WS, employees must:

  • be a year-round, permanent, full-time or part-time employees needed to carry out the day-to-day functions of the business;
  • be eligible to receive EI benefits;
  • agree to reduce their normal working hours by the same percentage and to share the available work.

The federal government is extending the maximum duration of the Work-Sharing program from 38 weeks to 76 weeks for employers affected by COVID-19.

Click here for more information about the Work Sharing Program.

5. I am on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW). What income support do I qualify for?

The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) provides income support to persons with serious health problems, and Ontario Works (OW) provides everyone else in need of financial assistance, provided that they meet the eligibility criteria. Currently, a single person receives up to $1,169 from ODSP or $733 per month from OW.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

If you receive income support from ODSP or OW, you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). CERB provides $2,000 a month for up to four months to workers who lose their income due to reasons related to COVID-19.

To qualify for CERB, you must:

  • reside in Canada and be at least 15 years old;
  • have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or be eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted your Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020;
  • have had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application;
  • have not quit your job voluntarily; and
  • have earned $1000 or less in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the initial four-week benefit period of the CERB claim. For subsequent periods, you cannot receive more than $1,000 in employment or self-employment income for the entire four-week period.

The Ontario government has recently announced that CERB will be treated as earned income and qualify for a partial exemption for ODSP and OW recipients who were on the program prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

For existing OW (granted prior to March 1, 2020) and all ODSP applicants/recipients, CERB payments will qualify for a partial exemption: the first $200, and 50% of each additional dollar received in a month will be exempt. Those on social assistance who are eligible for CERB will be allowed to keep $1,100 on top of their regular monthly provincial benefits of up to $733 for a single person on OW and up to $1,169 for an individual on ODSP.

For new and recent Ontario Works applicants (those granted on or after March 1, 2020), CERB payments will be deducted dollar-for-dollar when determining eligibility for social assistance.

ODSP and OW recipients who qualify for CERB partial exemption but become financially ineligible will not lose access to health benefits. However, they must report the income they receive from CERB to their ODSP or OW worker.

Click here for more on Ontario social assistance and CERB or call your local office.

One-time Emergency Benefit

Individuals who are receiving social assistance from ODSP or ODSP may be eligible for a one-time emergency benefit set up by the provincial government for COVID-19 related expenses.

The Emergency Benefit is a one-time payment of $100 for individuals, and $200 for families, which can be used for a broad range of needs, such as transportation, food or clothing that individuals and families may require due to COVID-19.

ODSP and OW recipients can access this emergency benefit by calling their caseworker.

6. I am a student. What COVID-19 income support do I qualify for?

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

If you are a student, you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). CERB is a taxable benefit that provides $2,000 a month for up to four months to workers who lose their income due to reasons related to COVID-19.   

CERB is available to workers who: 

  • reside in Canada and are at least 15 years old; 
  • have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020; 
  • had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; 
  • have not quit their job voluntarily; and 
  • have earned $1000 or less in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the initial four-week benefit period of the CERB claim. For subsequent periods, you cannot receive more than $1,000 in employment or self-employment income for the entire four-week period. 

Please note, student loans and bursaries do not count toward the $5,000 in income.

You can apply for CERB either through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Service Canada. There is more information about the CERB here.

If you are not eligible for CERB, you may be qualify for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) (see below).

The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)

On April 22, 2020, Prime Minister Trudeau announced an emergency financial aid package for students facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. The plan includes the launch of the Canada Emergency Student Benefit. On April 29, 2020, the government introduced legislation to implement this benefit. Based on currently available information, the benefit will be available to students who meet all of the following requirements:

  • Are a Canadian Citizen, permanent resident, protected person, or are registered as an Indian under the Indian Act. International students do not qualify for the benefit;
  • Are enrolled at any time between December 1, 2019 and August 31, 2020 in a post-secondary program or has graduated from high school in 2020 and has applied for and intends to enrol in a post-secondary program that will begin before February 1, 2021;
  • Are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19 or are working but making less than the benefit during a 4-week period; and
  • At any point during that 4-week period, do not receive income from employment or self-employment of more than the specified amount, allowances, CERB or EI benefits.

Many of the rules for CESB have not yet been announced. However, according to government announcements, the benefit will provide $1,250 per month for eligible students. Eligible students with disabilities, or dependents will receive $2000. This benefit will be available from May to August 2020.

The Canada Student Service Grant

On April 22, 2020, the prime minister also announced an emergency financial aid package for students facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. Included is a new Canada Student Service Grant for volunteerism. Students who choose to do national service and serve their communities during the COVID‑19 pandemic can receive up to $5,000 for their education in the fall.

As part of this initiative, the federal government will introduce legislation to be considered by parliament.

Suspension of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan repayment

The Ontario government has temporarily suspended OSAP loan repayments between March 30, 2020 and September 30, 2020. During this time, students will not be required to make any loan or interest payments on their student loans.

7. I am a parent with school age children. What COVID-19 assistance do I qualify for?

Federal Support

a) The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment increase

The federal government will provide up to $300 extra per child to families that are entitled to receive the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for April 2020 and still have an eligible child in their care in May 2020. The payment will be made as part of the regular May 2020 payment. This is a one-time increase to the May CCB payment for the 2019-20 benefit year (July 2019 to June 2020).

You will receive a payment increase if:

  • you have an eligible child in your care in May 2020; and
  • you and your spouse/common-law partner (if applicable) have filed your 2018 tax return(s).

If you did not file your 2018 taxes, you will not be eligible for this payment increase.

b) The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is a taxable benefit that provides $2,000 a month for up to four months to workers who lose their income due to reasons related to COVID-19. This includes working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are at home because of school and daycare closures.

CERB is available to workers who:

  • reside in Canada and are at least 15 years old; 
  • have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits or Employment Insurance fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020; 
  • had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; 
  • have not quit their job voluntarily; and 
  • have earned $1000 or less in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the initial four-week benefit period of the CERB claim. For subsequent periods, you cannot receive more than $1,000 in employment or self-employment income for the entire four-week period. 

You can apply for CERB either through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Service Canada. For more information about CERB, read this blog post.

Provincial Support

Ontario is providing financial support to parents to help with the extra costs of educational resources associated with the closure of schools and daycares during the COVID‑19 outbreak.

Parents are eligible for a one-time per child payment of:

  • $200 for children aged 0-12, or
  • $250 for children with special needs aged 0-21.

Parents/guardians must submit one application per child. Only one parent/guardian may apply for each child. The parent/guardian who applies should have custody of the child.

You can apply for this one-time per child payment here.

If you applied for funding related to labour disruptions through the Support for Parents program on or before April 2, 2020, and you received payment through direct deposit, you are not required to re-apply for funding for the Support for Families program.

8. I am a senior. What COVID-19 income support do I qualify for?

Federal Support

The federal government has reduced the required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25% for 2020 for seniors.

The federal government is also contributing $9 million through United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors, such as the delivery of groceries, medications, or other essential items.

Provincial Support

Ontario is providing immediate financial support of an additional $75 million to 194,000 vulnerable seniors who may need more help to cover essential expenses during the COVID‑19 outbreak.

If you are a senior receiving monthly Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments, the province will be doubling your payment, making it up to $166 per month for individuals and up to $332 per month for couples. If you are a GAINS recipient, you will receive this extra support automatically for six months, with the first payment on April 24, 2020.

Ontario has also announced that it is investing $10 million to support the coordination of subsidized deliveries of meals, medicines and other necessities to seniors.

9. Do I qualify for Ontario’s Emergency Assistance Program?

On March 23, 2020, the Ontario government announced an expanded Emergency Assistance program administered through Ontario Works (OW).

Ontario’s Emergency Assistance Program assists people who are in a crisis or emergency situation. It covers needs such as food, rent, medicine, informal childcare and other services.

You may be eligible for the emergency program if you live in Ontario (not a visitor or tourist) and are in a crisis or emergency situation, and do not have enough money for things like food or housing. A crisis or emergency situation includes the following:

  • you have been affected by COVID-19;
  • you are being evicted from your home;
  • you are worried about your personal safety;
  • you are in or leaving an abusive relationship.

If you are eligible for emergency assistance, the amount you receive will depend on your specific situation. In most cases you will not receive more than what you would receive on OW. For example, you may get:

  • approximately $733 for a month if you are a single person and need help paying for food and shelter;
  • more if you have children;
  • up to 48 days of support depending on your specific situation.

You are not eligible for Ontario’s Emergency Assistance Program if you are receiving assistance from OW or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

You can apply for emergency assistance online or by calling your local Ontario Works office.