With all of the personal COVID-19 benefits and relief measures introduced in the last 12 months, do you know where you stand? Heading into tax season – now is a great time to find out.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
The CERB benefited taxpayers unable to work or with significantly reduced income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program ran from March 15 to September 26, 2020. It could be applied through Employment Insurance (EI) or the Canada Revenue Agency if taxpayers were not eligible for EI.
CERB paid $500 per week for up to 28 weeks, split into seven periods of 4 weeks. This amount is taxable on the 2020 tax return, and no withholdings were made, meaning recipients may have a balance owing on their 2020 tax return.
To be eligible for CERB, the requirements were:
- Be a resident of Canada.
- Be at least 15 years old.
- Have stopped working because of COVID-19 or be eligible for regular EI benefits.
- Be or expect to be without employment or self-employment for at least 14 days in the four-week eligibility period.
- Have at least $5,000 of income in 2019 (or the 12 months before applying) from employment, self-employment, or certain other benefits (such as maternity/paternity EI).
The government later updated eligibility to include individuals who stopped working because they:
- Had to care for children due to COVID-19 school closures.
- Needed to care for family members who were sick due to COVID-19.
- Had to care for family members with a disability whose usual care was not available due to COVID-19.
- Were told to stay home by a medical professional.
- Were rehired by an employer but will earn less than $1,000 per month.
- They couldn’t return to work in Canada because they were on vacation outside of the country.
- Were a business owner and were forced to close the business due to COVID-19.
- Were self-employed and were ill with COVID-19 related symptoms, and were unable to work.
The government noted later in the program that the $5,000 of self-employment income was net income (gross income less expenses). In recent weeks the government has clarified that their interpretation stands but that they will not seek to recover amounts paid to taxpayers who applied under the belief that the requirement was gross income and not net income.
Individuals could not earn more than $1,000 for a period of 14 days within their first four-week claim period to be eligible for CERB. In subsequent periods, the limit was $1,000 in total.
You can find details on the CERB and other personal COVID-19 benefits here.
Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)
Following the end of CERB, the government replaced it with three new personal COVID-19 benefits – the similarly named Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB).
These benefits are $500 per week, with 10% withheld at the source and remitted to CRA for a net payment of $450 per week.
Eligibility began on September 27, 2020 and is currently scheduled to end on September 25, 2021. The CRB operates in a two-week eligibility period, while the CRSB and CRCB are one-week periods.
To be eligible to apply, you must:
- Be a Canadian resident.
- Have a valid Social Insurance Number.
- Be at least 15 years of age.
- Not be currently receiving short-term disability, workers’ compensation, EI, or one of the other two recovery benefits (that is, if you are applying for the CRB, you cannot be receiving the CRSB or CRCB).
- Have earned at least $5,000 in employment, self-employment, or other eligible benefits in 2019 or the twelve months before applying.
There are specific requirements to apply for each of the personal COVID-19 benefits:
Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)
- Have had an average weekly income decline of at least 50% due to COVID-19, compared to average weekly income in the previous twelve months (or 2019). For claims in 2021, a comparison to 2020 is also possible.
- Must not have voluntarily stopped working or failed to return to work when possible.
- Must be seeking work.
Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)
- Unable to work at least 50% of normal working time, or if self-employed reduced time devoted to the business by at least 50% because
- You have or may have contracted COVID-19.
- Have underlying conditions or treatments or contracted other illnesses that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
- Isolated as advised by a medical practitioner, employer, or government official for reasons related to COVID-19.
- Not granted paid leave or paid under a sickness benefit plan during the application period.
Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)
- Unable to work at least 50% of normal working time due to caring for a child under 12
- Who could not attend school as a result of school closures for reasons due to COVID-19.
- Could not attend school due to contracting COVID-19.
- Who could not attend school due to isolation under advice from a medical professional or government authority due to COVID-19.
- Who has been advised by a medical professional would be at risk of serious health complications if they contracted COVID-19.
- Unable to work at least 50% of normal working time due to caring for a family member who required supervised care
- Whose regular program or facility was unavailable due to COVID-19.
- Because they contracted or might have contracted COVID-19.
- Who was isolating under advice from a medical professional or government authority due to COVID-19?
- Informed by a medical professional of risk of serious health complications if they contracted COVID-19.
For the application, a family member is anyone the caregiver considers to be like a close relative.
Other important notes:
- The CRB is available for a maximum of 13 two-week periods (26 total weeks).
- Taxpayers receiving the CRB must repay 50% of each dollar earned over $38,000, to a maximum of the CRB received.
- Access the CRA information page regarding the CRB here.
- A single applicant can claim a maximum of two weeks of CRSB.
- Access the CRA information page regarding the CRSB here.
- The CRCB is available for a maximum of 26 weeks per household, and only one member of a household can be eligible in any one week.
- Access the CRA information page regarding the CRCB here.
One Time Top-up Payments:
CRA issued several special one-time payments during 2020 to assist low-income taxpayers. As these payments are in addition to otherwise tax-free benefits, there is no tax on these payments.
CRA issued a one-time payment in April 2020. This doubled the possible maximum GST/HST credit available in the year. Individuals or families whose income was too high for regular quarterly GST/HST payments may have been eligible for this particular payment. Calculated amounts are based on taxpayers 2018 tax returns.
Canada Child Benefit (CCB)
The government increased the maximum CCB payments by $300 per child for the 2019-2020 year (July-June). Some families whose incomes were too high to receive regular benefits were eligible for a one-time benefit in May 2020. Calculated amounts are based on taxpayers 2018 tax returns.
For 2021 additional CCB benefits were announced of $300 per child under six for families with Net Income of $120,000 or less and $150 per child under six for families with net income above $120,000. Families with net income over the threshold to receive regular CCB will not receive the additional payments. The government will make four payments during 2021 in January, April, July, and October.
Old Age Security (OAS)/Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)
Eligible seniors received a one-time payment of $300 for the OAS pension in July 2020. An amount of $200 was also available to those eligible for the GIS.
Individuals who qualified for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) as of June 1, 2020, received a one-time payment of $600. This amount was reduced by the OAS/GIS amounts above if the individuals qualified for both benefits. The government announced an extension of December 31, 2020, to apply for the DTC. Payments started to be issued on October 30, 2020.
Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)
The CESB provided a taxable benefit of $1,250 for up to four periods of four weeks for students who were not eligible for EI or CERB and who could not find work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This amount increased to $2,000 for students eligible for the disability tax credit or who had a dependent. This amount had no withheld tax.
To be eligible to apply, a student must have been:
- Actively looking for a job
- Not eligible for the regular CERB benefit
- Not eligible for Employment Insurance for the same period
Alternatively, if a student was unable to work due to COVID-19 as a result of any of the following, they would also qualify for the CESB if they were:
- Self-isolating or in quarantine
- Ill due to COVID-19 or have underlying health conditions.
- Caring for others who are ill or vulnerable to COVID-19
- Caring for dependents due to closed schools or daycares
- Studying abroad and waiting for repatriation by the Canadian Embassy
Also, the student must meet one of the following criteria:
- Enrolled in a post-secondary program of at least 12 weeks leading to a degree, diploma, or certificate
- Completed or ended post-secondary education in December 2019 or later
- Completed high school in 2020 and have applied for a post-secondary education program that began before February 1, 2021
The program was available from May 10 to August 29, 2020, in four-week periods. After June 7, 2020, students graduating high school were only eligible for benefits from July 5 to August 29.
Are you looking for more insight into your personal COVID-19 benefits, reach out to a member of the RLB team.