Updated December 20, 2020
With the winding down of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) in September and the realization that the current COVID-19 scenario may last for much longer than anticipated, the landscape of both federal and provincial government benefits has changed. The federal government has transitioned away from the CERB to an expanded Employment Insurance (EI) program as well as three new federal benefits: the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. We cover these benefits, in addition to changes to social assistance and direct funding, that are of importance to people with disabilities and their families in our round-up below.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”)
The CERB has officially ended, but the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) continues to accept applications for retroactive payments for the period of August 30, 2020 to September 26, 2020. The federal government has now shifted away from CERB towards an expanded Employment Insurance (“EI”) program and new recovery benefits. If you were receiving CERB, you may be eligible for one of the new federal recovery benefits retroactive to September 27, 2020 and available until September 25, 2021.
Canada Recovery Benefit (“CRB”)
Canadians may be eligible for the CRB if they were not employed or self-employed for reasons related to COVID-19, or had a 50% reduction in average weekly income compared to the previous year due to COVID-19. The CRB will provide eligible workers with $500 per week for up to 26 weeks between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021. Eligible recipients must have earned at least $5,000 in 2019, 2020, or in the 12 months before application. Recipients should also not apply for or receive the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, short-term disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, EI benefits or the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan. Click here for more on the CRB.
Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (“CRCB”)
The CRCB will be available to eligible Canadians who are unable to work for at least 50% of their normal schedule because they are caring for a child or family member during the pandemic. The eligibility criteria for the CRCB includes care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because:
- Their school, day program or care facility is closed or unavailable to them due to COVID-19;
- Their regular care services are unavailable due to COVID-19;
- They are sick with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19;
- They are at risk of serious health complications if they get COVID-19, based on medical advice; or
- They are self-isolating due to COVID-19, based on medical advice.
The CRCB will provide $500 per week per household, for up to 26 weeks, for the period of September 27, 2020 to September 25, 2021. Eligible recipients must have earned at least $5,000 in 2019, 2020, or in the 12 months before application. Recipients should also not apply for or receive the CRB, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, short-term disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, EI benefits or the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan in the same period, or receive paid leave from their employer for the same period. For more on the CRCB, click here.
Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (“CRSB”)
The CRSB will provide $500 per week to eligible Canadians who are unable to work at least 50% of their regular work week because they are self-isolating due to being sick with COVID-19, have been advised to self-isolate, or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID-19. The benefit will be available for a maximum of two weeks between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021. The two weeks do not have to be consecutive. Eligible recipients must have earned at least $5,000 in 2019, 2020, or in the 12 months before application. Recipients should also not apply for or receive the CRB, CRCB, short-term disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, EI benefits or the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan in the same period, or receive paid leave from their employer for the same period. For more on the CRSB, click here.
Federal Disability Benefit
The first payment of the federal disability benefit was issued on October 30, 2020. The one-time, tax-free payment of $600 was sent automatically to Canadians who qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (“DTC”), receive the Canada Pension Plan Disability (“CPPD”), receive the Quebec Pension Plan Disability Pension (“QPPD”), or receive disability supports provided by Veterans Affairs Canada (“VAC”). The next payments of the federal disability benefit are expected to be issued in January 2021 and in the spring. The federal government extended the deadline to qualify for the DTC in order to be eligible for the benefit to December 31, 2020. Find more information on the federal disability benefit here.
Support for Learners Program
Families who have children under the age of 12 or children with disabilities under the age of 21 may be eligible for payments to assist with education-related expenses during the pandemic. Eligible parents and guardians may receive a one-time payment of $200 for each child up to age 12 or a one-time payment of $250 for each child or youth up to age 21 with special needs. The deadline to apply for the program is January 15, 2021. For more information, click here.
Ontario Disability Support Program (“ODSP”)/Ontario Works (“OW”) and Federal Benefits
If you are on ODSP or OW and are receiving any federal government benefits, such as EI benefits, CRB, CRCB, and CRSB, these benefits will be deducted from your ODSP payments. The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has confirmed, however, that the Federal Disability Benefit will not be deducted from ODSP payments.
If you have been receiving ODSP or OW prior to October 2020, you are also eligible to keep your health and other benefits under ODSP while continuing to receive EI or federal recovery benefits, until March 31, 2021. For more, visit the ODSP website here.
ODSP/OW Discretionary Benefits
Discretionary benefits may be available to those receiving ODSP or OW for exceptional costs related to COVID-19. Contact your local caseworker to access these benefits. For more, visit the ODSP website here.
Passport Funding and Special Services at Home (“SSAH”)
As of October 1, 2020, Passport and SSAH recipients who employ personal support workers and receive direct funding for this purpose are able to provide workers with a temporary wage increase. The wage increase applies to support workers who provide: direct assistance with personal care, respite care, or community activity participation. More information on eligibility and access for this temporary support will be available in the coming weeks. For more information, visit the Passport website here and the SSAH website here.
The expanded list of eligible expenses that was made available to Passport and SSAH recipients during the pandemic is still in effect. The new eligible expenses include sensory items, technology, home-based recreation and fitness, personal protective equipment, essential service delivery fees, and behavioural support plans and related interventions. You can find more information on the new eligible expenses here.
Ontario Emergency Assistance Program
The Ontario Emergency Assistance Program is still available to those who are not receiving ODSP benefits or OW and are in crisis or emergency situations. Eligible recipients must not have enough funding for essentials because they are affected by COVID-19, have faced eviction, are in or leaving an abusive relationship or are worried about their safety. The program can be accessed online or by calling an OW office.
For even more on benefits available to you during COVID-19, we would encourage you to take a look at the Community Advocacy & Legal Centre’s (“CACL”) excellent benefits chart, which is updated on a regular basis. Find the chart here.
PooranLaw will continue to monitor ongoing changes to government benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, if you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.
Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.