Income assistance during COVID-19

A:   A universal basic income would be welcome news to many, given the startling rise in layoffs and reductions in business activity we have experienced, but the governments has not (yet) introduced a real universal basic income at either the Ontario or Canadian level.  So far, anyway.

That being said, new measures have been introduced over last few weeks to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic that will dramatically help some. They include the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (“Wage Subsidy”).   

These programs will hopefully make a big difference, but the government may still need to do more to buttress the incomes of workers (including self-employed) and small businesses, who may not neatly fit into the criteria that is outlined below.

The CERB is designed to provide a source of income to individuals who were laid off or lost their job because of COVID-19.  To be eligible for the CERB, you must be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in a four-week period for a reason related to COVID-19. For further eligibility and program details, click here
The CERB is designed to provide a source of income to individuals who were laid off or lost their job because of COVID-19.  The CERB unfortunately does not apply to those individuals who are still working but whose hours or salary have been significantly reduced.  Instead, the workers should encourage their employer to apply for the federal government’s Wage Subsidy program – and push for more support if they don’t have a traditional employer.

CERB and the Wage Subsidy have eligibility criteria and may not apply to everybody even if your income/workplace has been affected.  But if you have been affected by COVID-19, you may well qualify for one of these benefits depending on your specific circumstances. 

How does the Wage Subsidy program work? 
The Wage Subsidy program provides funding to qualifying businesses for 75% of employees’ wages up to $847/week ($58,700 annually), for employees who are not laid off or are recalled from temporary layoffs.  
A business can qualify for the Wage Subsidy program if:  
  • it is a corporation that is not publicly funded, a non-profit, or a charity of any size; and  
  • it has experienced at least a 30% decline in its gross revenues compared to the same month last year.  
The subsidy may also be available to new businesses who have been operating for less than a year but more information from the government is needed about how new businesses can qualify.  

Currently, the Wage Subsidy program is expected to last until the beginning of June; however, the government has indicated it may be extended if required.  

For advice on these issues or layoffs or anything else employment or labour related, please email me at or call me direct at 905-572-5806.
Wesley Jamieson
Wesley Jamieson
P: 905.572.5806