“As we safely reopen parts of our economy, we are transitioning to more nimble and flexible programs that will help get Canadians back to work,” Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says in a release.

In place of CERB, the government has announced a $37-billion transition plan to make Employment Insurance (EI) more accessible — and create three new benefits to help those who still don’t qualify.

Here’s the current plan and what you need to do to get on board.

Transitioning to Employment Insurance

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If you lost work over the spring and summer but haven’t applied for CERB yet, you may still be able to apply until Dec. 2.

But overall, more than 4 million Canadians will have to transfer off CERB, according to estimates from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

For most people, that means switching over to EI.

While CERB was designed to cover people who didn’t qualify for EI, the government says temporary changes could open the program to 400,000 more people than usual.

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What will life on EI look like?

Those transitioning to the new and improved program are eligible to receive at least $500 per week for 26 weeks. Keep in mind that benefit is taxable.

Access to EI benefits is normally based on the number of hours you’ve worked the year prior. But with the pandemic standing in the way of Canadians accruing those working hours, the government will allow those with at least 120 hours of work to qualify. That’s about 3.5 weeks of full-time work.

Regular EI benefits are available to people who have lost their jobs and are actively looking for work. Meanwhile, special benefits are there for people who have been unable to work, including caregivers, those on maternity and those suffering from illness.

And, to encourage Canadians to rejoin the workforce, you can even receive part of your EI benefits after returning to work under the Working While on Claim rules.

How to apply for EI

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If you have been collecting CERB through Service Canada, you will automatically be transferred to the new program so long as you’re eligible.

Those receiving CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency will have to apply for EI through Service Canada.

You’ll want to register soon to minimize any gap in payments as CERB ends. There may be a waiting period before your EI kicks in.

Once you’re registered, you’ll have to submit biweekly reports on your work status and job hunt to keep receiving EI.

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What if I’m not eligible for EI?

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Even with the changes, as many as two million CERB recipients won’t qualify for EI, the CCPA estimates. Meanwhile, new COVID-19 lockdowns may be necessary to stop the spread of a second wave in the fall.

That’s why the Liberal government introduced a bill last week to create three new temporary benefits. Debate continues in the House of Commons, but the government is seeking to rush the bill through to get funds to those in need as early as next week.

“It is time for action. It is a time of urgency,” House Leader Pablo Rodriguez said to opposition members.

These new benefits, which will be accessible through the Canada Revenue Agency, will be available for one year, until Sept. 25, 2021.

Canada Recovery Benefit

The Canada Recovery Benefit is designed for individuals who aren’t eligible for EI but still require assistance due to the pandemic.

Like the new EI plan, the new benefit will provide $500 weekly for 26 weeks.

To get it, you must have seen your income drop by at least half, be actively looking for work and accept work when it is “reasonable” to do so.

Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit would provide $500 per week for up to two weeks to workers who are sick or must isolate at home for reasons related to COVID-19.

The feds haven’t released the eligibility requirements for the new program but describe the benefit as a way to ensure all Canadian workers have access to paid sick leave.

Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit

The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit will provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks to workers who need to stay home to look after another person.

That can be a child under the age of 12 or a family member who would normally be in the care of a school, daycare or care home that’s been forced to close.

It also covers those who need to stay home to care for a family member who is sick or needs to quarantine themselves due to COVID-19.

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About the Author

Ethan Rotberg

Ethan Rotberg

Former Reporter

Ethan Rotberg was formerly a staff reporter at MoneyWise, based in Toronto. His background includes nearly 15 years as a writer, editor, designer and communications professional. His work has appeared in the Toronto Star, CPA Canada and Metro, among others.

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