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Special COVID-19 Income Support Measures: Information for Academic Staff Associations

Some academic staff associations have negotiated letters of understanding to ensure that members do not lose work or income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly important for contract academic staff, who often lack adequate paid sick leave and may be facing job loss or non-renewal. Where the employer is not providing adequate income protection, federal income support measures may provide some relief. Employer-provided and federal benefits may be coordinated to fully protect income.

Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The CERB will provide $2,000 per month for up to four months and will be backdated to March 15, 2020. It will apply to all workers who have lost income, including contract workers and self-employed individuals, who would not otherwise be eligible for EI.

To qualify, you must have received $5,000 in employment income, self-employment income, maternity, parental, or adoption EI benefits in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to applying for benefits. Additionally, you must have 14 consecutive days of no income each month to qualify for CERB.

CERB combines previously announced measures and provides a simpler and more accessible approach.

  • Canadians will begin to receive their payments within ten days of application. The benefit will be paid every four weeks and will cover the period of March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020.
  • If you have already applied for EI, you do not need to apply for this new benefit. Your claim will automatically be transferred to the CERB.
  • The application form can be accessed in the following ways.
    • Your CRA MyAccount portal;
    • Your My Service Canada Account; or
    • By calling a toll free number to use an automated application process.

**Please note that as of April 15, the eligibility for the CERB was expanded to:

  • Allow people to earn up to $1,000/month while collecting the CERB;
  • Include seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI benefits and are unable to do their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Include workers who have recently exhausted their EI benefits but are unable to return to work or find work because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

CERB versus Employment Insurance

Employment Insurance (EI) benefits remain an option for Canadians who lose their job as a result of COVID-19. When deciding whether to apply for EI or the CERB, you should consider the following:

  • EI requires workers to prove they are eligible for the program under a stringent set of rules. Some workers will not be eligible for EI but they will be eligible for CERB. The CERB application process will be automated, ensuring that applications are handled quickly and benefits provided sooner.
  • EI is tied to a recipient’s previous employment income, but CERB is not. Those applying for CERB will receive $2,000 per month if they have earnings of $5,000 in the previous year or 12 months prior to applying. Those applying for EI will receive 55% of their previous income up to a maximum of $573 per week. Those with an annual income above $47,272 would receive about $288 more per month through the EI program. Both programs provide taxable benefits, but taxes on the CERB will be deferred. Accounting for tax deductions, you may receive less money through EI at this time than you would receive with the CERB.
  • The CERB provides benefits for 16 weeks, whereas EI benefits, can extend past 16 weeks. However, anyone receiving the CERB can apply for EI after the 16 week period if they are eligible for EI.

EI benefits through a work-sharing agreement:

The federal government has a work-sharing program that aims to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary decrease in business activity beyond the control of the employer. The program provides EI benefits to eligible employees who agree to reduce their normal working hours and share the available work while their employer recovers.

With a work-sharing agreement, employees can work part-time and receive EI benefits part-time. Eligibility criteria include:

  • If you are a permanent employee or a temporary employee whose term of contract has maintained hours similar to a permanent full-time or part-time employee within the last 12 months;
  • If you have had hours reduced as a result of COVID-19; and,
  • If these reduced hours are expected to continue for the next six weeks, your employer can apply for a work-sharing arrangement.

For more information on work-sharing and EI visit:

Student Support

  • There will be a six-month, interest-free moratorium on payments to the Canada Student Loan Program.
    • Additionally, the maximum weekly amount of a loan has been increased from $210 to $350 and the eligibility for loans has been broadened by removing the expected student’s and spouse’s contributions for 2020-21.
  • Canada Emergency Student Benefit: Financial support for students and new graduates not eligible for the CERB of $1,250 per month, or $2,000 per month if you are a student with dependants, for up to four months.
  • Canada Student Service Grant: A volunteer program that allows students to exchange volunteer service for up to $5,000 for their education in the fall.
  • Canada Student Grants: For eligible students, grants have been doubled for the 2020-2021 year.
  • An additional $75 million for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students in 2020-2021.

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