Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

People worried they received extra Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) money in their bank accounts Wednesday morning can breathe a sigh of relief, according to Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office.

Thousands of people who’ve lost their jobs and incomes due to COVID-19 found an unexpected $2,000 in their bank accounts on Wednesday (April 8), sparking concern that they were being paid extra through Employment Insurance (EI) or CERB, as well as causing fear it would be clawed back.

But the funds are the lump-sum emergency benefit money for the month of April, according to Qualtrough’s press secretary, Marielle Hossack.

Abbotsford resident Emily Brown, 27, said although she’s been out of work for just three and a half weeks, she’s received two payments from the federal government already: one $1,500 payment Tuesday (April 7) and one for $2,000 on Wednesday (April 8). Brown applied for Employment Insurance (EI) on March 17, after being laid off the day prior.

“I applied for regular EI but got switched to CERB automatically,” Brown told Black Press Media.

WATCH: Despite gaps, economic-relief package for COVID-19 is biggest in history, Freeland says

She’s among many others similarly confused and concerned.

Olivia Stevens, 23, awoke Wednesday to find $2,000 in additional funds in her bank account.

Stevens, who lives in Elmsdale, N.S., but works in the neighbouring city of Dartmouth, worked her last shift as a cook on March 15, before officially being laid off on March 17. She applied for EI the next day.

Stevens has since received two payments, both placed into her bank account last week. Originally, she was only eligible for $316 weekly, but that was boosted to $500 because of the emergency benefit.

“I didn’t apply for CERB separately – I just woke up to money today after receiving this week’s EI yesterday,” she said. “This has happened to a number of people that I know, as well.”

Stevens has been trying to call Service Canada to clarify whether the funds were sent erroneously or if the government had moved to making these payments monthly instead of bi-weekly.

“My biggest concern is having to pay it back. I can’t see myself having to pay all of it back since I am eligible for some portion of money,” she said. “I’m lucky the possible mistake was caught right away before I spent it on bills, but I know that some people already did spend it on bills before realizing it could be a mistake.”

Hossack said most people need not worry.

“We know there are some people who have been paid double,” she said Wednesday afternoon, but added, “No one’s going to receive more money than they’re supposed to.”

The $2,000 payments deposited Wednesday morning are for April, as long as you applied for either EI as a result of COVID-19 or for the CERB. You should not have applied to both – EI applications for COVID-19 related layoffs were automatically switched to the CERB.

In a statement, Hossack said “Service Canada and the CRA have been working together to continually review the CERB payments for accuracy,” as Service Canada handles EI payments while the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) is rolling out the emergency benefit payments.

“Together, they will ensure that each eligible Canadian receive only up to the maximum $8,000 payment they could be entitled to over the 16-week period under Canada Emergency Response Benefit.”

In an email, a spokesperson for the Office of the Minister of National Revenue, which handles the CRA, said the agency was working on a solution for people who mistakenly applied to both EI and the CERB.

ALSO READ: B.C. unveils $3.5M COVID-19 emergency fund for post-secondary students

The emergency benefit was implemented to replace EI for workers who lost their jobs or self-employed people who had lost their income as a result of COVID-19, after federal ministers said the EI system was overwhelmed. It is meant to provide $2,000 per month, paid out in weekly sums of $500. 

Hossack further clarified, by phone, that since the CERB is a taxable benefit, it will be included in the CRA’s tax calculations next year, when people submit their 2020 returns. If anyone does get overpaid, including if they return to work, that will be sorted come tax time.

One B.C. resident’s bank account shows two back-to-back payments titled ‘Canada EI,’ totalling up to $3,000 despite only being laid off for two weeks. (Submitted/Black Press Media)

The emergency benefit application portal was launched April 6, leading nearly one million people to apply on the first day alone.

Ottawa said the emergency benefits program would replace EI for a 16-week period, and would be retroactive to March 15. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said people who applied for coronavirus-related EI would not have to reapply for the emergency benefit but would get switched over automatically. Payments have begun to roll out this week.

But the switch hasn’t been seamless, according to some who have faced dropped calls to federal hotlines dedicated to benefits inquiries. Others have taken to social media saying they have waited several weeks to receive EI payments, despite government officials waiving the one-week waiting period to expedite the transfer of funds.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

@ashwadhwani

ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford mom worried about her two kids in Beirut following explosion

Shelley Beyak’s children were abducted by their dad in 2018

Steve Coleman resigns as president of Abbotsford Minor Baseball Association

Coleman also steps down as chair of Sport Abbotsford, proud of his work with AMBA

Former high-stakes poker player from Mission missing in Nevada

Brad Booth last seen on July 13, told roommate he was going camping

White Rock Tritons ‘just happy to get out there’ against real competition

BC Premier Baseball League team returns to field against Langley Blaze, Abbotsford Cardinals

RCMP charge Langley man in connection with boat collision on Cultus Lake

A 67-year-old man allegedly operated a motor boat that collided with a woman paddling a canoe

Airlines dispute Dr. Henry’s claim they ‘very rarely’ give accurate COVID contact tracing info

Air Canada, WestJet say they provide names and contact information

B.C. Appeal Court prevents Victoria woman from using the term ‘death midwife’ in her job

Pashta MaryMoon claimed she had been providing “death-care services” for more than 40 years

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

Young Canadians, hospitality workers bear the brunt of mental strain in 2020: report

A study by Morneau Shepell points to economic uncertainty in the pandemic as the cause for angst

Health Canada recalling more than 50 hand sanitizers in evolving list

Organization says to stop using products listed, and to consult a health-care professional

Airborne hot dog strikes Greater Victoria pedestrian

Police called to 4200-block of Quadra Street for hot dog incident

B.C. scientist, 63, protests in trees set to be removed for Trans Mountain pipeline

Tim Takaro is reaching new heights as he tries to stall the pipeline expansion project in New Westminster

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Most Read