Update October 2020: The government has transitioned to an enhanced EI and Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). The prohibition against garnishment remains for all regular creditors. If you have an EI overpayment from before, the government probably can pay you less on your EI or CRB-EI. It’s not a garnishment, but it has the same impact
The Canadian government has introduced support payments under the Canada Emergency Response Benefits Act to support workers who lose their income as part of the COVID-19 pandemic. The benefit allows people to claim $2,000 a month for up to four months.
The benefits cover Canadians who lost their job, are not being paid due to COVID-19, have become sick, are quarantined, or otherwise cannot work due to the coronavirus crisis, including people taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19 and working parents who must stay at home due to school closures. CERB benefits are also available to self-employed and contract workers who may not be eligible for Employment Insurance.
The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act also provided financial assistance to families with children by temporarily increasing payments under the Canada Child Benefit (CCB).
These income support payments are there to help Canadians financially through the economic crisis created by lockdown and thus should be there for the benefit of the recipient and not their creditors.
Under the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Canada Child Benefit (CCB):
- Cannot be assigned or given as security for a loan
- Cannot be garnished or kept by right of set-off by the government for government debts
- Is not garnishable for support payments
- Is not considered either income or property in a bankruptcy
In other words, you are entitled to keep any support income payments received under the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act. The CERB and CCB payments are not wages that can be garnished in Ontario or Canada. Don’t let a debt collector threaten you otherwise.
Please note that once these payments are deposited in your bank account, they are no longer in the form of a benefit payment. They become cash in your account and are subject to a legal right of offset by your bank if you owe money to that same bank. More information is available in our article covering possible creditor actions during COVID-19.