The Government of Canada recently introduced the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This benefit provides income replacement for anyone who has lost employment or experienced a reduction in their hours of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government has made updates and adjustments since first announcing this program and you might have questions about whether you can apply for this benefit. We’re here to help with answers to common questions, ways to help you conveniently access CERB funds and advice for the long-term.

Am I eligible for CERB and how do I apply?

If you’re over the age of 15 and have lost work as a direct result of COVID-19 – you’re eligible for CERB. But you don’t necessarily need to be laid off to qualify for CERB. The government recently expanded eligibility criteria to be more inclusive for students and self-employed individuals, as well as people whose Employment Insurance (EI) benefits have or will run out.

You can apply online through either Service Canada or your Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) My Account, or over the phone.

Simple illustration (in a palette of blues, greys and light green) of an open laptop with "CERB", a blue maple leaf and 3 abstract Canadian bank notes on the screen. There are five bubbles coming out from the sides of the laptop with "how to", a question mark, "Tips", an exclamation mark and "tax" in the centre of each bubble.

When and how will I receive my CERB payment?

You’ll receive your benefit payment within 10 days of applying. The quickest way to get your benefit is to sign up for direct deposit with the CRA to have funds automatically deposited into your bank account. Otherwise, you can receive your payment via cheque.

Servus members can enrol for CRA direct deposit (handy for all government payments, not just CERB) in online banking or you can call our Member Contact Centre (1.877.378.8728).

Are CERB payments taxable?

Yes. CERB payments qualify as income, so the money is taxable just like other income would be. An important thing to note is that any CERB amount you receive is “pre-tax”. The government isn’t taking taxes off CERB payments like your employer normally would off your pay cheques.

Because of this you may owe money back to the government when you file your income taxes next spring (depending on what your total income ends up being in 2020). If possible, it’s a good idea to save a portion of your CERB payment ($300/month is a good start) – just in case. This way you’ll have funds set aside to pay any outstanding tax balance.

The CERB is just one of many financial supports available to Canadians during these tough times. If you have more questions about CERB, check out the Government of Canada’s question and answer page.

Servus also offers financial relief if you’re experiencing financial hardship, including a variety of options to help you, your family and/or your business.