Jagmeet Singh petitions government to stop CERB clawbacks

Dec 21 2020, 1:08 pm

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is urging Canada’s government to let Canadians who applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit money before rules changed to keep it until after the holiday season.

As some Canadians receive requests from the government to repay their incorrectly distributed COVID-19 aid money, Singh is urging them to sign a petition asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not to take back the money.

“Clawing back the CERB in the middle of the second wave and right before the holiday season is heartless,” the survey reads.

It also alleges the Liberal government is “unfairly penalizing workers for applying for the CERB in good faith.”

One Alberta woman is being asked to repay about $14,000 in CERB money over confusion about net versus gross income, she says in her online petition.

Avery Nawarowska is a yoga teacher and went back to work in 2019 only five months after giving birth because her family needed the money. She only made about $6,500 in 2019 because she didn’t work the whole year, she wrote.

She’s now being asked to repay her CERB benefit because it required a minimum of $5,000 of net income in 2019, which she interpreted as a minimum of $5,000 in gross income.

“This is a surprise for so many of us who likely won’t make $14 000 net income in the next several years and to ask us to pay it back in less than a month, amidst a second wave government-mandated lockdown, and during Christmas/holiday time none the less, is downright cruel,” she wrote.

According to the Government of Canada’s website, the CERB was designed to be distributed as quickly as possible. Now, the government is asking certain people to repay the money who were not actually eligible or who received double payments in error.

“Payments made to anyone who is later found to be ineligible will need to be returned. Any individuals who mistakenly received multiple payments or payments they did not apply for should begin the repayment process,” the website says.

The CERB program provided $2,000 monthly payments to out-of-work Canadians between March 15 and October 3, 2020. It has been replaced by several benefits, including the Canada Recovery Benefit.

In October, the CRA said they would begin contacting those who had been given extra payments, as well as those who applied and got money without truly being eligible for the program.

Trudeau has previously said that people who received their mistaken CERB payments “in good faith” won’t be penalized.

“We were serious when we said we would be there for people. We didn’t deliver support to millions of Canadians who needed it just to claw it back at Christmas,” Trudeau said.