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Why some people who applied for federal aid received more money than expected
TORONTO -- Some Canadians have received double the expected monthly payments from the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and they may be contacted by the government about potential overpayments.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB, offers $2,000 per month for up to four months for every Canadian who lost income due to COVID-19. Applications opened up this week, and in the first two days alone, the government received more than 1.7 million applications.
But some Canadians who've already received the money have reported irregularities, including two identical direct deposits of $2,000, or double the monthly amount. Others received deposits between $2,000 and $4,000.
There are several explanations for the higher-than-expected amounts.
On Friday, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough said that some Canadians ended up mistakenly applying twice for both employment insurance and CERB.
No one is eligible to receive money from both programs simultaneously. Despite this, they still received two $2,000 payments -- one processed by the Canada Revenue Agency and one from Service Canada -- for a total of $4,000.
In those situations, recipients will be contacted by the government about next steps, according to Qualtrough.
“The CRA and Service Canada are working together to ensure that these situations are reconciled and payments do not exceed the maximum amount allowed per individual of $8,000 over a 16-week period,” Qualtrough said Friday.
“So it won't necessarily be a clawback situation. It might be, but you can't apply for more than the $8,000.”
Qualtrough emphasized that no one needs to contact Service Canada or the CRA about these possible overpayments and that steps are in place to make sure no one receives more than they should.
"You don't have to call us. We're going to call you,” she said, adding that the government is taking steps to make sure the double payments don’t produce “financial hardship” for anyone.
In other circumstances, some Canadians who applied through EI may have received additional funds that were less than a $4,000 double payment, but more than a $2,000 monthly CERB payment. These deposits were not a mistake, Qualtrough said, but other EI entitlements that recipients already qualified for and were paid for when they received CERB.
Earlier this week, Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said some recipients who received $4,000 were paid retroactively for the four-week period dating back to March 15, the first day CERB can be applied, as well as the upcoming four-week period, beginning April 11.
However, a spokesperson from Qualtrough’s office clarified that no one has received two $2,000 payments from the CRA or two $2,000 payments from Service Canada. Individuals who received $4,000 collectively from both streams will be contacted.
Since March 15, more than 4.26 million people have applied for financial assistance through employment insurance and CERB. So far, 3.8 million CERB claims have been processed.
In total, the benefit is expected to cost the federal government $24 billion, according to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
Applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) opened Monday for Canadians born in the first three months of the year, a limitation applied in hopes of not overloading the system. On Tuesday, Canadians born from April to June were allowed to apply, those born from July to September were permitted on Wednesday. Applications opened Thursday for anyone born from October to December.
Those who sign up for direct deposit are expected to receive the money faster, within three to five days, while printed cheques take approximately 10 days.
Anyone who became eligible for employment insurance regular or sickness benefits on March 15 or later is automatically processed through CERB. Those who were eligible to receive more than $500 per week through EI will not be eligible for that higher amount with CERB, but their EI entitlement will not be impacted after they stop receiving CERB.
Some provinces have offered additional funding to low-income families, renters or others who find themselves struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced newly relaxed rules for the wage subsidy program, which offers businesses a subsidy on 75 per cent of employees’ salaries.
Now, companies that saw a 15 per cent decline in March compared to revenues in January and February 2020 can apply. Previously, companies were only eligible if they saw a year-over-year decline of 30 per cent.
More than two million Canadians lost their jobs in the second half of March due to the pandemic, which has forced businesses across the country to shutter.