The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the entire world by surprise. It’s causing so much more than health problems for people across the globe. Entire cities are being shut down, businesses have been forced to close up shop and millions of employers world-wide have been sending people home. For some, being sent home doesn’t mean no job, as many employers have been able to send their staff home to continue working as usual and to continue earning their regular paycheck.
But what about those of us who have to send employees home without the “continue working from home” directions? What about the thousands of Canadians who have been laid off or “let go until further notice”? There is no way to know when the virus will clear or when businesses will be given the okay to open up again. This COVID-19 pandemic has sent us for a loop medically, socially, financially and economically. However, our Canadian Government has stepped up and is doing what they can to help everyone out in a desperate time of need. Many Canadians are caught up in the fact that they just lost their jobs, they have a family to support and they don’t know where to start, so it’s important that you, as their employer can provide them with some guidance.
What options are available to employees unable to work due to COVID-19?
Regular EI | Employment Insurance
If your employees have been laid off due to the virus and they fall under the regular EI guidelines, they can still apply for regular Employment Insurance benefits during this time. If they;
- Were employed in insurable employment
- Lost their job through no fault of their own
- Have been without work and without pay for at least 7 consecutive days in the last 52 weeks
- Have worked for the required number of insurable hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter
- Are ready, willing and capable of working each day
- Are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of potential employers that you have contacted and include when you contacted them),
then they will still qualify for EI as they would if they were applying at any other time. The Canadian EI website has step by step instructions, application forms and Q & A pages available for all applicants.
CERB | Canadian Emergency Response Benefit
On March 25th, 2020, the Canadian government announced a change in the financial assistance available to Canadian residents affected by the virus. The programs they had in place initially only added to the chaos and confusion. The government quickly came up with a more streamlined way to help out their country in a time of need.
The CERB will be put in place for early April and is an emergency benefit that will provide individuals (who don’t qualify for regular EI) with $2000 a month for a total of 16 weeks. After an application is submitted, money is expected to be processed within 10 days. The CERB will be in place until October 2020.
Those who qualify for the CERB are:
- Self-isolating due to symptoms or illness
- Taking care of a family member with the virus
- Taking care of children at home due to school closures
- Those asked to go home without working from a home office and without officially being laid off
- Contract workers, wage earners and anyone else who is without an income and doesn’t qualify for regular EI
They have also put into place a one-time payment of $1146 for Canadian residence to fill the gap between being unemployed (or self-isolated) and the CERB benefits opening up in April.
If employees are still unemployed after the 16-week period covered by the emergency benefit, they will still qualify (and should apply) for regular EI benefits.
Federal Wage Subsidy for Small & Medium-Sized Businesses
On Thursday, March 26th, 2020, the Canadian Government also announced that they will be offering a 75% wage subsidy for qualifying Canadian businesses. This allows employers to still pay their employees a reasonable wage while not working. There are no dates set yet for the release of this benefit, but it will be back dated to March 15th, 2020.
Canada Emergency Business Account
On top of this wage subsidy, they are offering qualifying small businesses a loan of up $40,000 (interest free for one year) to help them stay a-float during this time.
Our government is truly working hard to support everyone at this time. They have pulled over 1300 employees from all other government departments to work on claims and phone calls. Their staff is working around the clock to support the country, it’s businesses and its residents.
Our entire team at BP Group Solutions understands the stress and panic in a situation such as this. We are all here and available via web chat or telephone to offer advice and direction to you and your employees. Please reach out to us if you have any further questions or concerns regarding the available financial emergency benefits during this time.