Family life

What parents need to know about Canada’s new coronavirus income benefits for families

Who qualifies and how to apply for COVID-19-related financial support.

This article was originally published on March 20 and updated on March 26.

Given the health recommendations to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with schools and child care centres closed, many working moms and dads suddenly find themselves stay-at-home parents, without their usual sources of income or ability to work. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a suite of new income support measures to help.

“No Canadian should have to worry about paying their rent or buying groceries during this difficult time,” Trudeau said at the announcement. “That is why we are taking the strong action needed to stabilize our economy and help those impacted by the COVID-19 virus.”

Some of these measures will require new spending measures to be passed by Parliament, which could happen by next week.

What are the benefits I can expect?

If you currently receive the Canada Child Benefit, you will get up to an additional $300 per child as part of the May payment. For Canadians who qualify for the GST credit, a special one-time special payment will be made by early May, the average of which will be close to $400 for single individuals and $600 for couples. If you are paying off a federal student loan, a six-month interest-free moratorium has been put into place.

If you qualify for EI sickness benefits (meaning accumulating insurable 600 hours, or reaching the minimum amount of self-employed earnings), the one-week waiting period has been waived, so those can be accessed immediately for people who are sick, quarantined, or forced to stay home to care for their children. Also, a medical certificate won’t be required to access those benefits. Also, the government has noted that the current EI system is not able to process all the new incoming applications. If you’ve just lost your job and are eligible for EI, you should apply for CERB instead (see below) for faster financial relief.

What if I don’t qualify for EI?

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has been introduced, which provides $2,000 a month for up to 4 months. (This replaces the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.) This taxable benefit applies to workers, including those who are self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19, those who are taking care of family members, people who are sick with COVID-19 but wouldn’t qualify for EI sickness benefits, or parents who are unable to earn income because of school closures and daycare, regardless of whether they qualify for EI or not. It would also apply to those who have lost their job, or those who are still employed but are not receiving income due to disrupted work.

How long do I have to wait for money?

Payments should follow within 10 days of application, and will be paid every four weeks.

How to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Those already receiving EI should continue to apply here. For those accessing CERB, an online portal will be available in early April.

What if I’m facing unemployment as a result of the outbreak?

An Emergency Support Benefit for workers not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment has also been implemented, and will be delivered through CRA.

What about my income taxes?

The government has extended the filing date until June 1, and the payment date until August 31.