The CRA says that Canadians have made approximately 190,000 repayments of CERB claims (Canada emergency response benefits) that they weren’t entitled to receive.
CERB provides monthly, taxable payments of $2,000 for up to four months to Canadians who lost income because of COVID-19 and although the payments were handed out quickly for relief at the time, the CRA can verify the claimant’s information at the time of filing or at a later date, with safeguards and controls enabling closer scrutiny of some files.
As a result of this, when a claimant is found to be ineligible, they are contacted to make arrangements to repay an amount and as of June 3 it is reported that nearly 190,000 payments were made through the CRA portal.
The CRA is also following up on 600 tips it received about potential abuse of CERB and other COVID-19 benefits.
Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said Canadians applied very quickly for CERB because they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to make ends meet, and there was “understandable confusion” between CERB and employment insurance (EI). So most of these people, the vast majority of these people, are people that applied twice and received therefore a double payment and they reimbursed half of those double payments.”
Overall the CRA says it will ‘aggressively’ pursue fraud and a new bill that is expected to be laid out by the House of Commons by the federal government today lays out penalties for claimants whose applications include information that is false or misleading, and for those who knowingly failed to disclose sources of income or other relevant facts when they applied for the federal aid.
An offence could get a fine of up to $5,000, plus a penalty equal to double the amount of the income support claimed, or a fine plus a period of imprisonment of up to six months, according to the draft bill.
The bill says the government can rescind or reduce a penalty in response to new facts and can issue a warning instead of a penalty.
Under the proposed legislation, Canadians won’t be eligible to claim the benefit if:
They fail to go back to work when it is reasonable to do so, and their employer asks them to return.
They fail to resume self-employment when it’s reasonable to do so.
They decline a reasonable job offer when they are able to work.
Extension of CERB?
The NDP is pressing the government to extend the CERB program, which is set to expire in July, for at least another four months. The estimated the cost of doing so is estimated at $64 billion.
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