Despite businesses and workplaces gradually reopening across Canada there are still many Canadians who are continuing to receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments.
Some Canadians may be receiving an unwelcoming surprise this month as many Canadians allegedly reported receiving lesser CERB payments than they have expected.
Additionally, they have been advised from government correspondence that they will not be eligible for the full $2,000 in June, which has confused many Canadians.
An excerpt of an email sent by Service Canada to a CERB claimant reads as follows:
“Because you previously received an advance payment of $2,000 of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, you won’t receive a payment for the period of June 15, 2020, to June 28, 2020. This is to cover the equivalent of the first two weeks of this advance. We will communicate any further changes to your future CERB payments in the coming weeks.”
What’s the Reason Behind the Smaller Payment This Month?
According to a spokesperson for the Minister of Employment, Carla Qualtrough, some Canadians received larger up-front payments than others when the CERB program was launched in April.
Additionally, Canadians who were eligible for employment insurance (EI) received two payments when the CERB program began.
This has created confusion for many Canadians as some have applied for CERB payments twice, one through the EI stream and another through the CERB stream.
Recipients through the EI stream have been paid $1,000 every two weeks, while recipients through the CERB stream received one $2,000 payment monthly.
As such through the confusion with applying for CERB, these Canadians have likely received the maximum $8,000 of payments for the first four-month period.
In her statement, Carla Qualtrough emphasized that payments from the CERB program would not exceed the maximum allowable amount and suggested that CERB recipients “budget accordingly”.
With the government’s newly announced extension to the CERB program for two more months, Canadians would be eligible for a maximum of $12,000 through the program.
As CERB recipients get closer to the maximum allowable payment, their next CERB payment may be noticeably smaller than they have previously received.
What Happens Next?
During his daily announcements on Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that Canadians who received CERB benefits earlier are now struggling financially.
Reassuring Canadians, the Prime Minister said “This is a situation that is difficult for many families and we’re looking at that closely”.
With the extension to the CERB program, Canadians who are still out of work due to COVID-19 can claim another $4,000 over the next two months.
NDP MP Daniel Blaikie criticized how the federal government did not warn Canadians well in advance about the cut in CERB payments, however, believed that the eight-week extension to the CERB program provided an opportunity to let people know how their benefit will end.
Are There Penalties for Abusing CERB Payments?
While the Prime Minister and some Federal Ministers have said the government will not go after those who made honest mistakes when filing for emergency benefits, they also vowed to crack down on those who deliberately defraud the system.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) told Canadians that they can verify a claimant’s information at any time and will contact ineligible claimants to make arrangements to repay a certain amount.
Although the government had proposed a legislation that would impose stiff penalties such as fines and jail time for CERB fraudulent claims, the bill had failed to pass at the House of Commons.
In the meantime, it is suggested that Canadians follow up with the CRA to ensure that they do not have to make arrangements to pay for any ineligible CERB payments.
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