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

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

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Cancer Care Unit at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, April 14, will benefit from a $100,000 donation from Prince Rupert Port Authority towards renovations. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Port Authority donates $100,000 to hospital renovations

Cancer Care Unit at PRRH to undergo upgradesat PRRH to undergo upgrades

Teresa Van sorts bottles at the April 10 Rainmakers Interact Club bottle drive to earn funds for six Seabin garbage collection units for harbours and waterfronts in the local region. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Bottle drive successful with more collected than can be sorted in one day

Rainmakers Interact Club supports local community with funds toward ocean garbage collection units

Flights are to resume to Prince Rupert and Sandspit airports under an Air Canada and federal government $5.9 billion agreement that was reached on April 12. A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
$5.879 billion agreement between Air Canada and Fed’s will assist YPR in re-opening

Prince Rupert Regional Airport to reopen flights by June 1st, if not earlier

BC Housing townhouses on Kootenay Ave. were demolished during March to make way for new affordable residential units by Prince Rupert Indigenous Housing Society. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Despite a recent reduction in units project will still be able to house many

Prince Rupert Indigenous Housing Society says 60 units is still the plan

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, Minister Responsible for Housing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. announces $2B for affordable, middle-income family home projects

HousingHub financing to encourage more developers, groups – with low-interest loans – to build affordable homes

Most Read