Changes and New Benefits Due to COVID-19 Pandemic (21:XII)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on June 30, 2021.



A. Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)[edit]

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was a taxable payment of $2000 for a 4 week period for those residing in Canada who were 15 years of age or older who stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or were eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their Employment Insurance regular benefits or fishing benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020. Further, to be eligible, one needed to have an employment or self-employment income of at least $5000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application and could not have quit their job voluntarily. When submitting a first claim, you could not have earned more than $1000 in employment income in 14 or more consecutive days within the four-week benefit period. For subsequent claims you could not have earned more than $1000 in employment income for the entire four-week benefit period of your claim.

For people who were eligible for income assistance or disability assistance on April 2, 2020, CERB is exempt as both an asset and as income until September, 2021. Further, no deduction is to be made for CERB when calculating the maximum amount of hardship assistance for which an applicant`s family unit is eligible (EAR, s 2.1 and EAPWDR s 2.01).

B. CERB Replacements[edit]

The following three benefits replaced CERB, retroactive to September 27, 2020 and are available until September 25, 2021:

1. The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) provides a taxable $500 per week for a maximum of 38 weeks for individuals who are not employed due to COVID-19, not eligible for EI, or had their employment income reduced by at least 50% due to COVID-19. The maximum number of weeks an individual can claim the CRB is 38 weeks. Please note that the 2021 Federal Budget proposes extending this to 50 weeks with the final 8 weeks being paid at a reduced amount of $300. Further, all new CRB claimants after July 17, 2021 would also receive the $300 per week reduced amount.

2. The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) provides a taxable $500 per week for a maximum of 38 weeks per household for workers unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they must care for a child under 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19, or because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine or is at high risk of serious health implications because of COVID-19. Please note that the 2021 Federal Budget proposes extending this to 42 weeks.

3. The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) provides a taxable $500 per week for up to 4 weeks for workers who are unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they contracted COVID-19, self-isolated for reasons related to COVID-19, or have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

For people who were eligible for income assistance or disability assistance on April 2, 2020, all three of these benefits are exempt as both an asset and as income for those who are receiving either income or disability assistance until September, 2021. Further, no deduction is to be made for these benefits when calculating the maximum amount of hardship assistance for which an applicant’s family unit is eligible (EAR, s 2.1 and EAPWDR, s 2.01).

C. BC Recovery Benefit[edit]

The BC Recovery Benefit is a one-time, tax free payment of up to $1000 for eligible families and up to $500 for eligible individuals. You have until June 30, 2021 to apply for this benefit. To be eligible, you must be a B.C. resident and at least 19 years of age on December 18, 2020. If you are applying for the family benefit, your spouse or common law partner must also meet the eligibility criteria.

If you received income assistance, disability assistance, the seniors’ supplement, hardship allowance or comfort allowance anytime during the months of January or February 2021, you will automatically receive the full benefit amount without needing to apply.

The BC Recovery Benefit is exempt as both an asset and as income for those who are receiving either income or disability assistance. Further, no deduction is to be made for the BC Recovery Benefit when calculating the maximum amount of hardship assistance for which an applicant`s family unit is eligible (EAR, s 2.7 and EAPWDR, s 2.07).

For a full list of eligibility criteria and how to apply, visit the Ministry policy at:

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/economic-recovery/benefit#eligibility

D. Canada Emergency Student Benefit[edit]

The Canada Emergency Student benefit (CESB) provided monthly payments from May 10, 2020 to August 29, 2020 to post-secondary students and recent post-secondary and high school graduates unable to find word because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For family units who were eligible for income assistance or disability assistance on May 1, 2020, the CESB is exempt as both an asset and as income for those who are receiving either income or disability assistance until September, 2021. Further, no deduction is to be made for CESB when calculating the maximum amount of hardship assistance for which an applicant`s family unit is eligible (EAR, s 2.2 and EAPWDR s 2.02)

E. Federal One-Time Payment for Seniors[edit]

By September 30, 2020 all funds related to the Federal one-time payment for seniors has been paid out. This fund included $300 for all seniors on Old Age Security in June 2020 and an additional $200 for seniors who were eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement from Old Age Security in June 2020.

Effective June 18, 2020 this payment is exempt as both an asset and income for individuals receiving income assistance, hardship assistance or disability assistance (EAR, s 2.4 and EAPWDR, s 2.04).

F. Federal One-Time Payment to Persons with Disabilities[edit]

Individuals will automatically be issued a payment of up to $600 if by March 5, 2021 all of the following apply:

  • Had a valid 2020 Disability Tax Credit certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency
  • Were eligible and applied for the disability tax credit by December 31, 2020
  • As of July 1, 2020, were a beneficiary of Canadian Pension Plan Disability, Quebec Pension Plan Disability or Veterans Affairs Canada disability supports provided to veterans and former RCMP

Individuals who received the Federal one-time payment for seniors may be eligible for this payment. If you received the Federal one-time payment for seniors and are eligible for this payment, you will receive a cumulative amount of up to $600 in two payments.

Effective September 20, 2020, this payment is exempt as both an asset and income for individuals receiving income assistance, hardship assistance or disability assistance (EAR s 2.6 and EAPWDR, s 2.06)

G. Emergenvcy/Disaster Crisis Supplement[edit]

Individuals who accrue additional costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic that they cannot meet may be eligible for an emergency/disaster crisis supplement. To be eligible, one must be on income or disability assistance, medical assistance only, CIHR or hardship assistance and all of the following must apply:

  • The family unit or a person in the family unit requires the supplement to meet an unexpected expense or obtain an item unexpectedly needed due to an emergency/disaster.
  • The family unit or person in the family is unable to meet the expense or obtain the item because resources are not available to the family unit due to the emergency/disaster.
  • Failure to meet the expense or obtain the item will result in imminent financial loss or danger to the physical health of any person in the family unit due to the identified emergency/disaster.

For more information on the emergency/disaster crisis supplement, visit the Ministry policy at:

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/policies-for-government/bcea-policy-and-procedure-manual/general-supplements-and-programs/crisis-supplement

H. Indigenous Emergency Assistance Exemption[edit]

Effective June 18, 2020, any assistance provided in relation to the COVID-19 emergency by an Indigenous nation or an Indigenous organization that provides services to Indigenous individuals is exempt as income and as an asset for people receiving income assistance, hardship assistance or disability assistance (EAR, s 2.3 and EAPWDR, s 2.03).

I. Minimizing In-Person Contact[edit]

The following changes have been made to minimize contact during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Any requirement in welfare legislation to provide information, or to sign a record or agreement can be done verbally. This is in effect until 90 days after the provincial State of Emergency expires or is cancelled, which occurred on June 30, 2021 (COVID-19 Related Measures Act, s 3(5)).
  • PWD and PPMB designation application forms are temporarily available online
  • The three week job search has been temporarily waived
  • Employment Plan compliance has been temporarily waived

Given that the provincial State of Emergency was cancelled on June 30, 2021, students will need to check to see if any of these practices remain in effect when consulted by a client.

J. Reconsideration Branch and EAAT Changes[edit]

During the provincial State of Emergency in effect from March 18, 2020 to June 30, 2021, the Reconsideration Branch had a discretion to extend or suspend deadlines where someone has been unable to meet a deadline because of factors related to COVID-19 (see Ministerial Order 98/2020, section 3) That power remains in effect for 90 days from the cancellation of the State of Emergency (see COVID-19 Related Measures Act, s 3(5)).

Where a deadline is changed, the date that the Reconsideration Decision takes effect may also change.

If a Reconsideration Decision awards a supplement or finds someone eligible for income or disability assistance and this is made after the usual deadline, the Reconsideration Decision takes effect 30 business days after the person is notified of the decision (EAR, s 2.5 and EAPWDR, s 2.05).

During the State of the Emergency in effect from March 30, 2020 to June 30, 2021 the EAAT had a discretion to waive, suspend or extend a deadline related to an appeal because of factors related to the pandemic (see Ministerial Order 98/2020, section 3). Currently, that power remains in effect for 90 days from the cancellation of the State of Emergency (see COVID-19 Related Measures Act, s 3(5)).

During the pandemic, the EAAT has not been holding in-person hearings and, as of July 2021, hearings are being held by phone, video-conference, or in writing. It is unknown as of this writing when in-person hearings may resume, so students will need to check with the EAAT for updates.


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