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Canada Emergency Relief Benefit Portal Now Open

IMPORTANT UPDATE, April 15: The federal government has announced changes to the eligibility rules to:

  • Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB. This means that artists who, for example, receive royalties from SOCAN or their label that total less than $1,000 can still receive CERB relief payments.
  • Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19.
  • Extend the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19.

The application portal for the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) is now open. CERB provides $500 a week for up to 16 weeks to Canadians who have lost their jobs or source of income because of COVID-19.

Currently the CERB eligibility guidelines on the federal government’s COVID-19 relief website says the benefit will be available to workers:

  • Residing in Canada, who are at least 15 years old;
  • Who have stopped working because of COVID-19 and have not voluntarily quit their job or are eligible for EI 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; 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 or self-employment income.

Music Canada "says this should apply to most musicians." The government's wording, though, created some confusion about whether gig workers, like musicians who may still have some income but not enough to live on, still qualify. The good news is that the federal government has acknowledged these concerns and says changes are coming.

How to Apply for CERB Benefits

To start the quick process of applying for CERB benfits, go to www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html.

Applicants will need to share their personal contact information and Social Insurance Number and confirm that you meet the eligibility requirements.

Also, sign up or log into My Account on the Canada Revenue Agency website. If “direct deposit” is selected, you will receive payment in three business days. Those who opt to receive a cheque by mail will receive payment in 10 business days, according to the government.

In order to not overload the website as hundreds of thousands of applicants are expected, the government staggering application days by birth month:

  • Those born in January to March, apply on Mondays
  • Those born April to June, apply on Tuesdays
  • Those born July to September, apply on Wednesdays
  • Those born October to December, apply on Thursdays.

It's important to remember you will need to reapply every four weeks to keep receiving payments through CERB.

Addition support from the federal government for individuals and businesses is available through its COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

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Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Canadian Musician. He is also a co-host of the popular Canadian Musician Radio weekly podcast.
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