If you’re struggling to work and take care of kids who are home for COVID-related reasons, there’s help available to you.
The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) is a temporary benefit created by the federal government to alleviate the financial pressure on people who are caregivers for children or other family members; it is available to people who have given up at least half of their weekly working hours to look after their dependents who are home for COVID-19-related reasons, provided they meet all the eligibility criteria.
For example, the CRCB would be available to a parent who gave up half their scheduled working hours because they had to stay home and supervise a child whose school or daycare was closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Similarly, if your child is showing symptoms of COVID-19 and you need to take care of them at home, you may be eligible for the benefit.
Tara Benham, who specializes in national taxes at the accounting and advisory firm Grant Thornton, says the CRCB is a program that helps to fill a hole in the usual Canadian employment insurance system, and that it provides support for employed and self-employed caregivers who might not otherwise qualify for employment insurance.
Caregivers who apply and are approved for the benefit will get $500 regardless of income, with 10 percent deducted for tax purposes, bringing it to $450 weekly. Processing time for the payments takes 3-5 business days with direct deposit, or 10-12 business days by mail. Each household can apply for up to 44 weeks of the CRCB (though it only runs until May 7, 2022). You can apply for a specific week retroactively, until 60 days after the period ends.
Since its launch, the program has approved applications from over 500,000 applicants, amounting to almost $4 billion in benefits.
Who can apply?
The CRCB is designed for people who would have been able to work a full work week if they didn’t have dependents who were at home due to COVID-19 (more details on this below), and who otherwise meet all of the 11 application criteria. The most important criteria are below:
- You were unable to work at least 50 percent of your scheduled work week because you were caring for a family member.
- The family member (a child 11 years old or younger, or a family member who needs supervised care), is at home because their regular care services (school, daycare, care facility) are closed due to COVID-19, or they are sick with COVID-19, have symptoms or are self-isolating. Only dependents who are self-isolating due to the recommendation of a medical practitioner or the government qualify for the last reason, which Mary Gellatly, a community legal worker at Parkdale Community Legal Services, says is “out of touch” because parents may not be able to access medical care for a symptomatic child. For instance, with the recent wave of Omicron cases, parents may decide without professional input that their child should self-isolate, but that disqualifies them from applying for the benefit.
- You have a valid Social Insurance Number. (This is obviously a barrier for those without legal status in Canada, who don’t have Social Insurance Numbers.)
You are not eligible if:
- You applied for or received any of the government’s other COVID-19-related benefits for the week you’re applying, like the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit or Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. (You can apply for different benefits for different weeks, but not for the same one.)
- Someone else in your household is receiving the CRCB for the same week, even if you’re taking care of different dependents.
- You are receiving paid leave from your employer.
- You are self-isolating or in quarantine due to international travel.
You will be asked to attest that you meet all the eligibility criteria. There is no need to provide proof that you meet the criteria unless you are asked to do so by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
How to apply
Gellatly suggests gathering all the information you need before you apply, which will speed the process along once you start.
Benham says applying online is faster than applying by phone. She also recommends setting up direct deposit with the CRA, as it will deliver the funds more than twice as fast as a mailed cheque, in 3-5 business days as opposed to 10-12.
Benham also recommends filing your 2019 and 2020 tax returns to speed up the validation process (if you haven’t already). People who don’t file their tax returns may have their payment delayed up to four weeks for verification purposes.
Finally, Gellatly suggests looking at what your other options are before applying for the CRCB. The CRCB provides $500 before tax weekly, which is more than some other benefits like the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (which is $300 before tax) for people who cannot work due to a COVID-19 lockdown. However, it may still be less than what you’d get if you took a paid sick day from your employer or your provincial government. For example, the British Columbia provincial government provides workers with five fully-paid sick days if they need to stay home due to COVID-19, and five days of your salary may amount to more than $500.
To learn more and to apply for the CRCB, visit the Government of Canada website.