Applying for new COVID-19 benefits? Why you might wait a bit longer this time

TORONTO — Added screening measures are being implemented in hopes of weeding out anyone who applies for the federal government’s three new COVID-19 benefits but isn’t actually eligible, a measure that comes after concerns that some individuals may have previously tried scamming the system.

The three new benefits — the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) — launch later this month after the government’s COVID-19 Response Measures Act received royal assent Friday.

Nearly nine million people have received help through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) since March, and officials expect close to four million people still require some sort of income support today.

Senior government officials confirmed that applicants may need to wait slightly longer to receive the benefits due to up-front verification measures they’re putting in place. Still, they say the payments will be issued within the Canada Revenue Agency’s service standards.

Anyone whose application is flagged for additional review could be required to submit documentation to back up their case. In these situations, applicants may need to wait as long as four weeks for processing.

Officials encourage anyone applying for the new benefits to complete their 2019 tax return to reduce the chances that their application will be flagged and delayed.

Officials estimate that, in cases where an application is approved, it will take three to five business days for payments to be received via direct deposit, and 10 to 12 business days for cheque by mail.

Earlier this year, the CRA said it received more than 11,300 leads of cases where claimants may have been ineligible to receive funds from CERB, but applied anyway.

Not all of those cases were confirmed incidents of fraud, but officials said the CRA investigates every tip it receives.

WHEN YOU CAN APPLY

Under the federal government’s $37-billion CERB transition plan, millions of Canadians who collected the CERB have been moved onto a more flexible and accessible EI program. If they don’t qualify for EI but still can’t work due to the pandemic, they may be eligible for the three new temporary benefits.

The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) will provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for the next year. Anyone who has stopped working due to COVID-19 or had their income drop by at least 50 per cent due to COVID-19 is eligible, though they must not be eligible for employment insurance (EI).

Workers can still earn an income while receiving the CRB. However, if their annual net income is greater than $38,000, excluding the amount received for the CRB, they must repay the CRB through their income tax at a rate of 50 cents for each dollar over $38,000.

Applicants can apply for the CRB beginning Oct. 12 through the CRA’s online portal or by phone, similar to how the CERB was administered. Anyone who anticipates applying is encouraged to register through the CRA’s My Account portal, make sure their personal information is correct and register for autodeposit.

Officials estimate that 890,000 workers will use the benefit.

The two other benefits — the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) — will begin accepting applications on Oct. 5.

The CRSB is a new initiative that provides $500 per week for up to two weeks for workers who are sick or who must self-isolate due to COVID-19. The benefit also covers affected workers with underlying conditions, such as those who are immunocompromised.

The benefit encourages Canadians to stay home if they are sick, may be sick or have been determined to be at greater risk if they contract COVID-19.

The CRSB is anticipated to be the most popular of the new measures, with 4.9 million Canadians expected to apply.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he pressured the Liberal government to broaden its sick leave benefit plan, saying that, because of him, millions of people would be eligible for the benefit rather than thousands under the earlier plan.

Senior government officials clarified that the previous plan would have covered about 500,000 fewer people, or 4.4 million. The change is attributed to the fact that those with pre-existing conditions are now eligible.

Those who are unable to work because they need to care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools and daycares are closed are entitled to the CRCB, a benefit of up to $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household.

The benefit is also available for those caring for a child or family member who is sick and/or required to quarantine.

However, the definition of “family member” will be considered broadly, senior officials said. An estimated 720,000 Canadians are expected to turn to the CRCB.

As with CERB, individuals who receive benefits but are found to be ineligible will be required to pay back any amounts they received. As well, these new benefits are also taxable.

Canadians will be able to apply for the three new benefits through the CRA up until Sept. 25, 2021.

TRANSITIONING TO EI

Canadians who collected CERB through Service Canada and are eligible for EI were automatically transferred over to the new program after it ended last weekend.

However, those who received CERB through the Canada Revenue Agency will have to apply for EI, which is administered through Service Canada.

One of the biggest differences between CERB and EI is that claimants will be required to self-report on their employment status and apply every two weeks in order to keep receiving support.

With files from CTVNews.ca’s Jackie Dunham and Rachel Gilmore

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