Important Update: CERB Eligibility

We regret to inform you that our Local has received conflicting information from CUPE National about the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) eligibility and criteria. They are now suggesting a more cautious approach.

Please continue reading for important information.

On April 23rd, we spoke with CUPE National about CERB eligibility, reviewing various detailed scenarios. We confirmed that members would be eligible even without a canceled summer contract, and that ostensibly whoever was out of work would also be eligible for CERB due to the inevitable impact COVID-19 had on the labour market. Once we received these assurances, we alerted the membership of the good news. Many of you have spoken of the financial stress you are under and we wanted members to access whatever support was possible.

Today (April 29th), CUPE National has revised their earlier advice and assurances. CUPE National are now indicating that it’s unclear if CUPE 3903 members without canceled work would qualify for CERB. 

While we understand that this is an evolving and complex situation, we are disappointed that CUPE National would assure our Local with full confidence that most of our members were eligible for CERB. As this eligibility criteria continues to change, and given that the interpretation of the criteria is unclear, we are now advising members to contact their Chief Steward if they are unsure of their eligibility. The Chief Stewards will work with members to find answers relevant to their individual circumstances.

We sincerely apologize for this shifting information and we will continue to seek clarification.

What has not changed:

To qualify for CERB members must have had $5,000 in income, or maternity or parental leave benefits for 2019 or in the 12-month period preceding the day they make the application. Members must also expect to earn less than $1,000 in employment or self-employment income for at least 14 days in a row during the four-week benefit period.

  • Members who would normally be eligible for EI are eligible for CERB and should submit their claims through Service Canada. EI claims will be automatically processed through the CERB.
  • Members who are not eligible for EI but have stopped working, or who are making less than $1000 of income for 14 days in a row in a four-week period because of reasons related to COVID-19 can apply for CERB through the CRA. “Reasons related to COVID-19” include lay-offs or reduction of hours due to COVID-19 as well as personal reasons such as need to quarantine, illness, care-taking of others who are ill, or child-care related duties due to shutdown of schools and/or daycares.

What *might* have changed:

CUPE National has now urged caution as members must have had a reasonable expectation that they would have been employed if not for COVID-19 in order to qualify for CERB. Given that it is unclear how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may audit information, it may be possible that members without withdrawn or cancelled recommended appointments or signed contracts may struggle to prove they had a reasonable expectation of employment.

This conflicts with the original assurances we were given by National that members with contracts ending on April 30th who were doubtful they could get work due to the impact that COVID-19 has had on the labour market would qualify for CERB. The threshold of “doubtful they could get work” is lower than “expectation of employment” and would have made most of our members eligible for CERB.