Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that Canadians who have received a letter asking them to repay their emergency relief benefits should not be worried – at least for now.
Trudeau said the government’s goal in the early days of the pandemic was to help Canadians cope with financial hardship and he understands that some people are now concerned about new possible debts.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has sent nearly 500,000 “educational” letters asking for additional information from certain recipients to determine if they actually meet the income eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
Some recipients who were found to be ineligible for benefits have been encouraged to pay the money back by December 31 to avoid any 2021 tax problems.
“We sent out those letters, but the message that I’m giving to Canadians is — if that letter is causing you anxiety, don’t worry about it,” Trudeau said in a year-end interview with the CBC’s Rosemary Barton.
“You don’t have to repay during Christmas. You don’t have to think about Jan. 1 as any deadline and we’re going to work over the coming weeks and months to make sure that there’s a path forward that makes sense.”
When asked if he would consider waiving repayments altogether for people who applied for the benefit by mistake, Trudeau said the government would work with individuals on a case-by-case basis.
“Obviously lots of people are in different situations. Some of them are extraordinarily vulnerable, some of them made the mistake and would be able to pay back as tax time approaches,” Trudeau said.
“We’re gonna work with them and I don’t want people to worry over Christmas. The system needs to be fair but it also needs to be there to support the most vulnerable. That’s the decision we took from the beginning — we’ll have Canadians’ backs.”
Meanwhile, NDP party leader Jagmeet Singh said Thursday it was “completely wrong” to ask these people to return their money.
“We’ve got these workers who applied for help, who absolutely qualified based on the rules that they were aware of, then after the fact the government is now changing, effectively, the criteria clarifying it,” Singh told reporters.
“They’re really just changing the criteria, and it is wrong to do so. We’re hoping that with the pressure that we mount on the government, we can get them to back down on this.”
This content is also available in: Tiếng Việt