Lost work due to COVID-19? Applications begin today for Canada Emergency Response Benefit

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      Financial relief is on the way for the large number of Canadians who've been forced to stop working due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

      This morning at 6 a.m. eastern daylight time (3 a.m. Pacific daylight time), the federal government started taking applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

      The joint Service Canada and Canada Revenue Agency initiative offers $500 per week up to 16 weeks to those who have not voluntarily quit their job. 

      Applicants must have had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to their application.

      They also must expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least two weeks over the first four weeks of benefits.

      Those who provide information for a direct deposit are being told they'll receive their first payment within three to five days. It could take up to 10 days to receive funds by mail.

      People can call toll-free  at 1-800-959-2019 or they can apply online.

      To accommodate the expected high volume of requests, the federal government is staggering applications based on the month of a person's birth.

      Those born between January and March can apply on Mondays; anyone born from April to June can apply on Tuesdays; those with July to September birthdates are expected to apply on Wednesdays; people born from October to November should apply on Thursdays.

      It's only available to those who are living in Canada and who are at least 15 years old.

      The federal government website includes answers to common questions about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

      Anyone who applies must submit the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all employers over the past year, as well as the dates of employment and reasons for separation.

      The federal government has set aside $24 billion for the program. 

      People cannot receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit if they're eligible for regular employment insurance or sickness benefits.

      Employment insurance pays 55 percent of a person's average wage over the previous year. The maximum under EI is $573 per week.