UPDATED: CERB & CEWS Still Being Adapted to Meet Needs of All Sectors
This post was updated on April 14 with new information on how REALTORS® qualify for CERB.
The Government of Canada continues to evolve the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) programs to ensure all business sectors are supported. The most recent changes help ensure Realtors and brokerages can access financial aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 8, Trudeau announced new details of CEWS that could make it easier for Realtors and brokerages to access the program. CEWS aims to help employers keep and return workers to their payroll by providing a 75-per-cent wage subsidy to eligible employers for up to 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, 2020.
The most important change for brokerages is that businesses will qualify for CEWS if they show a decline of 15 per cent in March revenue, as opposed to the 30 per cent initially announced.
In addition, businesses will be able to use January and February revenue as a basis to show their comparative loss of revenue, as opposed to the just the same month a year ago. This change may make it easier for new businesses, including brokerages, to qualify for CEWS.
While there is still no firm launch date and more changes are expected, in his April 8 briefing, Trudeau noted the program should be available in three weeks. For more information on CEWS, go to https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan/wage-subsidy.html.
When CERB was launched, it was unclear whether you must have stopped working and stopped receiving an income for 14 consecutive days to qualify, or if you qualify if you have stopped receiving an income but continue to work. The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has confirmed that if you stop receiving income for 14 days, even if you have continued working, you can apply, provided you meet the other criteria, which can be found here.
If you're still unsure or if you have received some income but feel you should still qualify, call the Government of Canada's toll-free helpline at 1.800.959.8281.
There are seven CERB eligibility periods and you can apply for up to four periods, which don't have to be consecutive. The main criteria is that you haven't received any income for at least 14 consecutive days in the period for which you are applying.
If you receive income after you have received a CERB payment, and then stop receiving income again, you will need to re-apply. When you re-apply, you must confirm that for at least 14 days in a row, during the eligibility period you are applying for, you won't be receiving any income, including federal or provincial benefits related to maternity or paternity leave. You can view the eligibility periods on the CRA's webpage.
As a Realtor, based on this information, if you know you will have income from a transaction completing on May 1, you cannot apply for the April 12 - May 9 period. However, if you do not have any transactions completing for the May 10 - June 6 period, you may apply again.
Because you can only apply for four periods in total, if you are not facing immediate financial hardship and you're unsure if you qualify, BCREA recommends waiting to apply until more information becomes available. Applications will be accepted up to December 2, 2020, meaning payouts will be available retroactively for the eligibility periods. If you receive CERB, you will be expected to report the benefit as income when you file your income tax for the 2020 tax year.
One of the key eligibility criteria for CERB is that you have not quit your job voluntarily. Currently, it isn't clear if surrendering your real estate trading services licence would be considered quitting voluntarily. With that in mind, BCREA advises all Realtors hoping to apply for CERB to maintain their licence until this is clarified.
If you apply for CERB, and discover you're not eligible, please email Trevor Hargreaves, VP of Government and Stakeholder Relations at the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA). BCREA is collaborating with the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) to make government aware of barriers Realtors are facing.
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