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An Ontario man is on the hook for more than $38,000. What has your experience been with CERB?

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit was an income support program during the pandemic. (Giordano Ciampini/The Canadian Press) The Canada Emergency Response Benefit was an income support program during the pandemic. (Giordano Ciampini/The Canadian Press)
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When the federal government granted billions of dollars in COVID-19 financial aid during the pandemic's early days, many Canadians who received them weren't supposed to be eligible.

A 2022 auditor's report found that $4.6 billion was paid to people who shouldn't have qualified. Now, the government is trying to get that money back, and many say they can't afford to pay it.

One of those people is Terrance Bailey.

After receiving $38,600 in the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) from April 2020 to October 2021, the Toronto resident found out that he must pay back the full amount, because the Canada Revenue Agency says he didn't qualify for the benefits he received.

He told CTV News Toronto that he fears he may have to declare bankruptcy.

"I'm on an old age pension and a Canada pension. I make $2,000 a month, and how am I supposed to pay back $38,000 and pay my groceries and my rent?" said Bailey, who worked as an auto consultant when the pandemic shut down car dealerships nationwide.

The program was launched in a hurry, granting Canadians whose jobs were directly affected by COVID-19 $2,000 a month. 

"Given the unprecedented financial impact of the pandemic, that money needed to be delivered extremely quickly to millions of Canadians," the Canada Revenue Agency said in a statement to CTV News.

The Canada Revenue Agency said the government had clearly stated that "ineligible individuals would later have to repay amounts they had received."

But there was some confusion over who was eligible, and some are now in a situation they didn't expect. CTVNews.ca is looking to speak to those people.

What has your experience been with CERB?

How much do you owe? Did you expect to have to pay that much back, and are you able to pay it back?

What do you think of the program? What do you wish you'd known? Are you worried about what you owe?

What steps have you taken or will you take if you've been asked to repay CERB?

Share your story by emailing us at dotcom@bellmedia.ca with your name, general location and phone number in case we want to follow up. Your comments may be used in a CTVNews.ca story.

With files from CTV News Toronto Consumer Alert Videojournalist Pat Foran

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