Some Canadians are getting unwelcome surprises this month: smaller Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) payments than they expected.
CBC News has heard from many people confused by correspondence from the government advising them that they will not be eligible for the full $2,000 in June.
“Because you previously received an advance payment of $2,000 of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, you won’t receive a payment for the period of June 15, 2020 to June 28, 2020. This is to cover the equivalent of the first two weeks of this advance. We will communicate any further changes to your future CERB payments in the coming weeks,” reads an email from Service Canada received by a CERB claimant.
What’s behind the smaller payment?
A spokesperson for Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said that some people received larger up-front payments than others when the aid program was launched. Those who were eligible for employment insurance (EI) received two payments when the CERB program began — they have now hit the maximum $8,000 for the initial four-month period.
As CERB was being rolled out, Qualtrough said the double deposits were not a mistake and that adjustments would be made through the course of the program.
Other people had applied twice, through the EI and CERB streams, and ended up receiving extra payments.
“Don’t worry, it’s fine. We’re on it. We’re sorting it out,” Qualtrough said at the time, assuring Canadians that the payments would be “reconciled” over time.
She did stress that payments would not exceed the maximum allowable amount and suggested that recipients “budget accordingly.” The government has since announced the CERB program will be extended for two more months, which would make an individual eligible for a maximum of $12,000.
Conservative employment critic MP Dan Albas blames government communications blunders for the anxiety some Canadians are now experiencing.
“The Liberals’ announcement on April 8 has resulted in considerable confusion, as many Canadians are now finding themselves in an unexpected financial situation,” he said. “Government communications to Canadians who are receiving the CERB needed to be clear and concise. Unfortunately, it has been the opposite.”
Recipients through the EI stream are paid $1,000 every two weeks, while recipients through the CERB stream receive one $2,000 payment monthly, said Qualtrough’s office.
What happens next?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged on Monday that some people who received the money earlier are now struggling financially.
“This is a situation that is difficult for many families and we’re looking at that closely,” he said.
For those still out of work due to COVID-19, the extension of CERB will allow them to claim another $4,000 over the next two months.
NDP MP and employment critic Daniel Blaikie said the federal government should warn people well in advance before cutting the payments. The eight-week extension provides an opportunity to let people know when their benefit will end without it stopping abruptly, he said.
“Instead of putting Canadians at ease, the government has been systematically unclear. They’re unclear about when payments will end, what penalties there will be and what constitutes a reasonable offer of work,” he said.
“What people need is clarity. What they have is a government more concerned about covering their political backside than being straight with Canadians.”
Many Canadians who were paid too much in error already have made repayments. As of early June, CRA reported that Canadians had made almost 190,000 repayments of CERB benefits they weren’t entitled to receive.
Are there penalties for abuse?
CRA said the agency acted quickly to deliver emergency aid programs to Canadians in need and designed CERB as an attestation-based system, similar to the tax-filing process.
The CRA can verify the claimant’s information at the time of filing or at a later date. When a claimant is found to be ineligible, they are contacted to make arrangements to repay an amount.
Trudeau and some federal ministers have said the government will not go after those who made honest mistakes when filing for emergency benefits, but they’ve vowed to crack down on those caught deliberately defrauding the system.
The government had proposed legislation that would have imposed stiff penalties for CERB fraud, including fines and jail time. After a backlash that saw the government accused of trying to scare people even more during a global pandemic, the bill failed to pass a Commons vote earlier this month.
CERB vs. wage subsidy?
The government has been encouraging employers to take up the wage subsidy program, which covers up to 75 per cent of the employee’s salary up to a maximum of $847 a week.
That program was designed to maintain the connection between employer and employees, to allow businesses and economies to restart quickly and smoothly as pandemic restrictions ease up. Businesses must show a 30 per cent decline in revenues due to COVID-19 to qualify for the wage subsidy.
The Conservatives say the government should move to a phased formula for programs to maintain an incentive to return to work — by gradually clawing back CERB payments when someone has higher earnings and allowing businesses to claim a partial wage subsidy when they don’t have the full 30 per cent revenue drop.
“As businesses start having shifts to fill, Canadians should not be penalized for returning to work. But that’s exactly how the Liberals’ programs are structured. Earning more than $1,000 a month results in a worker losing their entire benefit,” Albas said.
“That is why Conservatives have called on the government to make the CERB more flexible so that no one is worse off going back to work or picking up a shift.”
Canada not ready for second wave of COVID-19, Senate committee says – CBC.ca
Canada is ill-prepared for a second wave of COVID-19, says a Senate committee, calling on the federal Liberals to deliver a plan by Labour Day to help people and communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
Seniors, in particular, are a focus of the report from the Senate’s social affairs committee, from those in long-term care homes to those with low incomes.
Just this week, the Liberals rolled out one-time special payments of $300 to the more than six million people who receive old-age security, and $200 more for the 2.2 million who also receive the guaranteed income supplement.
The income supports are meant to help seniors facing increased costs as a result of the pandemic, such as more frequent prescription fees and delivery charges for groceries. Senators on the committee wrote of evidence of “financial insecurity and increased vulnerability” for low-income seniors as a result of the first wave of the novel coronavirus.
A potential second wave, which could coincide with the annual flu season that starts in the fall, would make the situation even worse for these seniors “without concrete and timely government action,” the report says.
Senators say the Liberals should deliver a plan to help low-income seniors, among other populations vulnerable to economic shocks like new immigrants, no later than the end of August, and contain short- and long-term options.
The report also says the federal government needs to pay urgent attention to seniors in long-term care homes where outbreaks and deaths in the pandemic have been concentrated.
The document made public Thursday morning is the committee’s first set of observations on the government’s response to the pandemic, with a final report expected later this year.
Before then, the Liberals are planning to provide another economic update like the one delivered Wednesday, or possibly a full budget.
Healthcare and pharmacare
The government shelved plans to deliver one at the end of March when the House of Commons went on extended hiatus due to the pandemic.
The long-awaited economic “snapshot,” as the Liberals styled it, said federal spending is closing in on $600 billion this fiscal year. That means a deficit of $343 billion, fuelled by emergency pandemic aid that the government budgets at over $230 billion.
The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada said the spending figures demand a “full and transparent assessment” to see what worked, what didn’t and what needs to change for an economic recovery.
Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said the Liberals should take back up their promise to create a national pharmacare system as the government considers its next steps.
A federal advisory council last year calculated the cost of a program at over $15 billion annually, depending on its design.
“The last thing we want to have is Canadians in frail health as we’re dealing with this pandemic and I think the government really needs to think of that,” Yussuff said in an interview Wednesday.
“Had it not been for the health care system we have right now,” he added later, “think of how this country would have fared in this pandemic.”
The Senate committee’s report also notes the national emergency stockpile of personal protective gear like masks, gowns and gloves wasn’t managed well over the years, nor sufficiently stocked when the pandemic struck.
Committee members added concerns that military members could be deployed without sufficient personal protective equipment because of “inconsistencies from international procurement.”
Coronavirus: Canada adds 370 new cases, 12 deaths Thursday – Global News
Canada’s total coronavirus case count went up by 370 Thursday and its deaths by 12.
The country now has 106,783 cases total with 27,460 of them active, and 8,749 deaths total.
Quebec, the hardest-hit province in Canada, reported 137 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total to 56,216.
Six new deaths were also reported, though four of them occurred before July 1. There have now been 5,609 deaths due to the virus in the province.
There are currently 308 people hospitalized in the province, down 23 from Wednesday, and 27 are in intensive care.
Ontario reported 170 new cases on Thursday, with 86 of them originating in the Windsor-Essex region as the province targets temporary farmworkers for testing.
Coronavirus: Federal health officials say ‘limit or no transmission’ of COVID-19 in most parts of Canada
The province now has 36,348 cases total with 31,977 of them recovered, or 88 per cent. Overall, the new daily infection numbers have been on the decline over the past several weeks.
There are currently 123 patients hospitalized, with 31 of them in intensive care (down by four the previous day) and 23 patients on a ventilator (down by three).
Ontario has seen 2,703 deaths after three more were reported Thursday.
In Alberta, meanwhile, three new deaths were announced Thursday, all linked to a coronavirus outbreak at Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital.
The deaths bring the total number of COVID-19 fatalities in the province to 161, while 37 new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the province over the past 24 hours. Currently, there are 584 active cases in Alberta.
Of the total 8,519 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 7,774 have recovered.
Canada’s greatest coronavirus threat comes from U.S.
British Columbia reported 20 new cases Thursday, bringing its total to 3,028, nine of which were not tested but are considered epidemiologically-linked.
More than 88 per cent of those patients have fully recovered, while 175 cases remain active.
Seventeen of those cases are in hospital, four of them in critical care.
20 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., no new deaths
In Saskatchewan, five new cases were added to bring its total to 813, while 750 of them have recovered, up by four from yesterday.
There have been 15 COVID-19-related deaths in the province.
There are currently 48 active cases in the province, health officials said. Active cases are total cases less recoveries and deaths.
For the ninth straight day, no new COVID-19 cases were reported in Manitoba, keeping its total cases to 325 — 11 of which are presumptive cases — with four active cases. Seven Manitobans have died.
New Brunswick reported one new case of the coronavirus on Thursday in the Fredericton region, and said it was a travel-related case and the individual is self-isolating.
The province said the number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 166 and 163 people have recovered. There have been two deaths, and there is one active case.
No new cases or deaths were announced in the rest of the Atlantic or Canada’s territories.
— With files from Gabby Rodrigues, Phil Heidenreich, Thomas Piller, Shane Gibson, Kalina Laframboise, Aya Al-Hakim and Simon Little
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada pushes back on U.S. Congress members’ call to reopen border amid coronavirus – Global News
The federal government is softly pushing back against an effort from U.S. Congress members to reopen the border with Canada amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, saying any decision will be made “by Canadians, for Canadians.”
A bipartisan group of 29 federal lawmakers led by New York representatives Blaine Higgins and Elise Stefanik sent a letter to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf late last week, urging both countries to “immediately craft a comprehensive framework for phased reopening of the border.”
The group also calls for interim measures to ease restrictions on family members and property owners, particularly those with property only accessible through cross-border travel, and “restore the social bond that unites our two nations.”
“We hope that our legacy of binational cooperation would lend to the development of a thorough plan to protect the health of our shared communities and reinvigorate them in this time of recovery,” the letter reads.
The Canada-U.S. border was shut down to all but essential travel, including transportation of goods and work-related travel, on March 21. The closure has been extended by 30-day periods after assessments of the COVID-19 pandemic in both countries, pushing the deadline most recently to July 21.
‘We’re very concerned’: Dr. Bonnie Henry on COVID-19 transmission coming from U.S.
The Congress members argue those regular extensions have created “unnecessary tension” and uncertainty for individuals and the shared economy,
“Continuing to extend border restrictions at 30-day intervals is untenable for the communities that have been separated from family and unable to tend to their property for over three months,” the group argues.
Higgins, a Democrat, and Republican member Stefanik are co-chairs of the Northern Border Caucus, which focuses on cross-border commerce and investment as well as border infrastructure.
In response to the letter, a spokesperson for the office of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said while conversations between Canada and the U.S. about the border are ongoing, “both sides agree that the current measures in place” have “worked well.”
“Our absolute priority is the health and safety of Canadians,” Katherine Cuplinskas said in an email. “That is why we want to be clear that decisions about Canada’s border are made by Canadians, for Canadians.”
Coronavirus: Why reopening the Canada-US border too soon could mean a ‘second wave’
Cuplinskas did not give any suggestion either way as to whether the July 21 deadline will be extended yet again.
Public polling has suggested Canadians are mostly supportive of the decision to keep the U.S. border closed to limit the spread of COVID-19, and has remained steadfast as cases have surged south of the border at an alarming rate.
The U.S. topped three million infections Wednesday, just 28 days after crossing the two-million mark — cutting by nearly half the time it took to grow from a million to two million cases.
Spikes in several states have lead to continuous record-breaking daily case counts, which have been blamed in part on aggressive moves to reopen local economies.
A Globe and Mail/Nanos poll released Monday, three days after Higgins’ and Stefaniuk’s letter was sent to Blair and Wolf, found 81 per cent of those surveyed want the border to remain closed “for the foreseeable future.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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