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PANDEMIC PAY: The CRA and Service Canada Offer $500-$573 a Week!

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians have been entitled to “pandemic pay.” That is, extra wages to help them cope with working on the front lines of the crisis. So far, pandemic pay has been given to teachers, medical professionals, and grocery store workers in several provinces.

It turns out, the unemployed may be eligible for some pandemic pay as well. If you’re out of work due to COVID-19, you can receive between $500 and $573 a week to help you through the COVID-19 crisis. Thanks to a number of programs introduced by the CRA and Service Canada, there is a massive amount of money up for grabs. Although the CERB is over, there are plenty of new programs to take its place. In many ways, they’re actually better than the CERB itself.

So, without further ado, here are the two main pandemic bonuses unemployed Canadians can get in 2020.

Recovery benefits

Recovery benefits is a broad term to describe three new benefits the CRA has rolled out to replace the CERB. They all pay $500 a week and are available for a full year, during which you can claim 26 weeks’ worth of benefits. In no particular order, they are

  • The Canada Recovery Benefit: A $500 weekly benefit for non-EI eligible, unemployed Canadians.
  • The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit: A $500 weekly benefit for those caring for COVID-impacted dependents.
  • The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: A $500 weekly benefit for those out of work due to illness.

Each of these benefits is paid bi-weekly and has $100 per cheque withheld in taxes. So, you can receive up to $11,700 in 26 weeks from either of them.

Revamped EI

Revamped EI is a new form of EI with a $500-floor level. That means that your benefits can never go below $500 a week. Typically, your EI depends on how many hours you’ve worked. This year, however, Service Canada is bringing in a 300-hour credit to get everyone up to a $500-a-week level. You only need 120 insurable hours to qualify. If you earned more than the floor amount, you could get up to $573 per week — MORE than what the CERB paid!

Pandemic benefits: Keeping the economy afloat?

Pandemic benefits are a huge plus for COVID-19-impacted Canadians. They may also be a big plus for the economy. By keeping people afloat financially, these benefits keep people spending money. That’s good for businesses and can fuel economic growth.

Consider a company like Canadian Tire (TSX:CTC.A). In many ways, this company is vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. It sells a lot of discretionary items like clothing and outdoor gear, which people tend to cut out of their budgets when unemployed. In recessions, retailers like Canadian Tire tend to lose money. That’s exactly what we saw in the early months of the COVID-19 recession, when CTC.A posted massive losses. In the first quarter, it lost $0.22 per share, because of the impact of the pandemic. It posted another large loss in the second quarter. That was bad enough. But without pandemic benefits, the results could have been even worse, thanks to consumers cutting back on spending. So, it’s possible that benefits like the CRB and EI are helping to keep businesses afloat. That’s good for the economy and good for your portfolio.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

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