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Selecting between EI and CERB while off Work due to COVID-19

It has been an overwhelming few weeks. Everyone has felt the impact of this pandemic, especially those out of work. If you have recently lost your job, been temporary laid off or have had a loss of income, or if are an employer facing these tough decisions your head has probably been spinning on figuring out what government support benefit is right for you. Specifically should you apply for EI or the new Canada Economic Response Benefit CERB.


You most likely heard about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and have been waiting details, not exactly sure if you should select this benefit or go with EI. Well the government has now made this easier for you with updated information yesterday, those out of work due to COVID-19 will receive the CERB (regardless of EI eligibility) for claims March 15th or later. For those eligible they will receive a flat rate of $500 per week while on CERB.

Quick Overview CERB


The Benefit is only available to workers who stopped work as a result of reasons related to COVID-19. Workers include:

  • Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;

  • Who have stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits:

  • Who had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application (may be from any or a combination of the following sources: employment; self-employment; maternity and parental benefits under the Employment Insurance program and/or similar benefits paid in Quebec under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan.); and

  • Who are or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period. For subsequent benefit periods, they expect to have no employment income.

The Benefit:

$500 a week for up to 16 weeks (Between March 15 and Oct 3)

Some that have done that math will note they could receive more than the $500 per week on EI (maximum of $573), government's response to this is: "When you apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, you will receive $500 per week, regardless of what you may have been eligible to receive through Employment Insurance. However, you retain your eligibility to receive for Employment Insurance after you stop receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and the period that you received the CERB does not impact your EI entitlement."

On the other end, those that would not be eligible for the full $500 payment under EI will also get the flat $500 per week.

How to Apply:

- Government is stating you should apply for the CERB (whether or not you are eligible for EI) if you are out of work due to COVID-19

-If you applied for EI regular or sickness benefits on March 15, 2020 or later, your claim will be automatically processed through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

- Applications will be process through individuals my CRA account - if you don't have one sign up right away to prevent delays.

- Applications open April 6th, once you apply payment is expected to be made within 10 days (quicker if you sign up for direct deposit). Until these open you can continue to apply for EI benefits.

- To continue the benefit every month you will have to declare you are still out of work due to COVID-19. Benefit timeframe is from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020.

The details:

The government site is now updated with more information. Here are some key updates as well as the link to the site.

For employers the government also release more details yesterday on the wage subsidy program, get the details here:

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