Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit program was launched in April, 2020 by the Government of Canada.

A taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months will be provided to:

  • workers who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
  • workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
  • workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.
  • wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.

On April 15, 2020, the Prime Minister announced that this program would be “relaxing the eligibility criteria to allow more people to receive the help that they need. [The Emergency Response Benefit will be there for you] if you’re:

  • a seasonal worker; or
  • if you earn less than a $1,000 per month; or
  • you recently exhausted your employment insurance benefits.”

Qualified applicants will receive a $2000 initial payment. You will then be paid $1000 every two weeks based on the biweekly reports you submit. If you choose to only report every four weeks, you will be paid $2000 based on the reports you submit. You will be paid as of the first week of your claim.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is accessible through either:

  1. CRA MyAccount
  2. My Service Canada (online)

To access these funds, you must have an account set up in one of those places; That way, money can be deposited straight to your account without delay. You should also make sure you have online banking already set up as you will need this for the registration of your account.

If you are eligible for a new EI claim starting March 15, 2020 or after, your EI Regular and Sickness benefits will be delivered as part of the Government of Canada’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Find answers to your questions about your benefit by contacting 1-833-966-2099

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program was also created in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Acceptance of applications began on April 27th.

The program provides a 75-per-cent wage subsidy to eligible employers for up to 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, 2020. The bill authorizes the federal government to pay companies 75 per cent of the first $58,700 earned by each employee – up to $847 per week for up to 12 weeks. The subsidy is provided directly to employers, but is for the benefit of employees.

This subsidy is available to eligible employers that see a drop of at least 15 per cent of their revenue in March 2020 and 30 per cent in April or May (see Eligible Periods). In applying for the subsidy, employers will be required to attest to the decline in revenue.

The government is encouraging all eligible employers to rehire employees as quickly as possible and to apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy if they are eligible. To ensure that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) applies as intended, the Government plans to limit duplication.  This could include a process to allow individuals rehired by their employer during the same eligibility period to cancel their CERB claim and repay that amount.

Canada Emergency Business Account

Applications began to be accepted for the new Canada Emergency Business Account in early April, 2020. The program provides a $40,000 interest-free, government guaranteed loan to help smaller businesses and not-for-profits to pay for operating costs that  they are not able to defer as a result of COVID 19.

$10,000 (25%) of the $40,000 loan is eligible for complete forgiveness if $30,000 is fully repaid on or before December 31, 2022.

If the loan cannot be repaid by December 31, 2022, it can be converted into a 3 year term loan charging an interest rate of 5%.

A business or not-for-profit will be eligible to apply for this loan if it is:

  • an operating company that was registered in Canada as of March 1, 2020;
  • had an annual payroll of between $20,000 and $1 million, based on its 2019 T4SUM Summary of Remuneration Paid; and
  • the application is made through the financial institution that holds its primary business operating account, which had been opened on or before March 1, 2020 for day to day payments and cash management activities.

(On April 16, 2020, the Government reduced the eligibility threshold for minimum annual payroll from $50,000 to just $20,000.)

Upon receipt of a completed application, the financial institution should quickly deposit the $40,000 loan into the applicant’s business operating account.

The $40,000 loan is interest-free. A quarter of the loan ($10,000) is eligible for complete forgiveness, if $30,000 is fully repaid on or before December 31, 2022. After this date, the loan can be converted into a 3-year term loan charging an interest rate of 5%.

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance

On April 24th, the Government of Canada announced a new program, called Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CERA). The program, to be implemented and funded jointly with the provinces and territories, will lower rent by 75 per cent for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. This could be of great benefit to restaurants, stores, and other businesses that have been started by newcomers.

  • The assistance is being given directly to commercial property owners (and not for example, residential property owners). They, in turn, will be reducing the rent for small businesses.
  • The assistance will be given to the commercial landlords in the form of forgivable loans, in order to cover 50% of three monthly rent payments (for April, May, and June, 2020) by “eligible small businesses who are experiencing financial hardship.”
  • Eligible small businesses are those that pay less than $50,000 per month in rent and who have temporarily ceased operations or have experienced at least a 70 per cent drop in pre-COVID-19 revenues.
  • The loans will be forgiven if the eligible tenant’s rent is reduced by at least 75% for those months, under a formal agreement between the landlord and the tenant, as part of which, the tenant cannot be evicted, so long as the agreement is in place.
  • The small business tenant is still responsible for paying the remaining 25% or less of the rent that was not reduced by the landlord.

The assistance program is expected to launch around the middle of May and will be retroactive to April.

COVID-19 Emergency Benefit (Ontario Works)

A new one-time, COVID-19 Emergency Benefit will help OW clients cover the additional costs of emergency needs, including:• hygiene and personal protective supplies;

  • cleaning supplies;
  • non-medical transportation; and
  • additional costs for staple foods.

People receiving Ontario Works who request support with COVID-19 related costs can receive up to $100 for a single person or up to $200 for a family.

COVID-19-related Changes to Ontario Employment Standards

Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020

The Ontario Legislature has passed the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 to provide job-protected leave to employees in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives.

Job-protected leave

The act provides job protection for employees unable to work for the following reasons:

  • The employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19.
  • The employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
  • The employee is in isolation or quarantine in accordance with public health information or direction.
  • The employer directs the employee not to work due to a concern that COVID-19 could be spread in the workplace.
  • The employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure.
  • The employee is prevented from returning to Ontario because of travel restrictions.

An employee will be able to take infectious disease emergency leave to care for the following individuals:

  • The employee’s spouse.
  • A parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A child, step-child or foster child of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A child who is under legal guardianship of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A brother, step-brother, sister or step-sister of the employee.
  • A grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A brother-in-law, step-brother-in-law, sister-in-law or step-sister-in-law of the employee.
  • A son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • An uncle or aunt of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A nephew or niece of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • The spouse of the employee’s grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.
  • A person who considers the employee to be like a family member, provided the prescribed conditions, if any, are met.
  • Any individual prescribed as a family member for the purposes of this section.

The act also makes it clear that an employee will not be required to provide a medical note if they need to take the leave. However, the employer may require the employee to provide other evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances, at a time that is reasonable in the circumstances. This could include such requests as a note from the daycare or for evidence that the airline cancelled a flight, but not a medical note.

These measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario. They will remain in place until COVID-19 is defeated.

Who does this apply to?

Most employees and employers in Ontario are covered by the provisions in this legislation, whether they work full-time, part-time, are students, temporary help agency assignment employees, or casual workers.

It does not apply to people in sectors that fall under federal jurisdiction, including employees working for banks, airports, inter-provincial and international rail, and federal crown corporations.

Helping ensure the health and safety of Ontario workers and workplaces

Employers and workers in the health sector should be following the Ministry of Health COVID-19 Guidance for the Health Sector.

Workers in other settings should be following the Ministry of Health’s recommendations on how to protect yourself. For the most up-to-date information on how individuals can protect themselves and what to do if they suspect they may be at risk, please visit

Employer Obligations

Currently under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, if an employer is advised a worker is ill resulting from an exposure at work (including COVID-19), or a claim has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) with respect to COVID-19 exposure at work, the employer must notify the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within four days. The employer must also notify the workplace joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative and trade union, if any.

State of emergency

In addition, Ontario declared an emergency due to COVID-19 on March 17, 2020. During a declared emergency, an employee may have the right to take an unpaid, job protected leave if the employee will not be performing the duties of his or her position because of the emergency and because certain circumstances apply.  More information will be available soon in Your Guide to the ESA.

Due to orders that have been issued under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the minimum standards under the ESA that are described in this Guide may apply differently to certain employees during the declared COVID-19 emergency. You can find the orders by visiting the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act online and selecting the “Regulations Under This Act” tab.

Resources for Small Businesses

The Government of Canada has developed a number of resources to help small businesses during he COVID-19 emergency:


For more related to COVID-19, we recommend also searching our Programs & Events database, using the “COCID-19” filter under “type”, as well as searching our Media Stories for the term”COVID”,