The prime minister said the federal government would not punish Canadians who mistakenly ended up with more COVID-related benefits than they were entitled to.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement during his daily Rideau Cottage address on Tuesday (June 9).
“The Canada Emergency Response Benefit was put in place in a way we knew would maximize the speed with which it would reach the millions who needed it,” Trudeau said, acknowledging that there were not a lot of upfront background or eligibility checks.
After a draft bill was leaked on Monday, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he would not support a bill that would punish people who made fraudulent claims.
On Tuesday morning, Trudeau said the people who “mistakenly took the CERB and the wage subsidy… those people will just have to pay back.” Some Canadians could have ended up with both as they first applied for CERB as they were laid off, and then were rehired and received the wage subsidy, which their employer applied for.
“We’re not looking at punishing people who made mistakes, Trudeau said, but rather “deliberate fraudsters.”
The prime minister said those fraudsters were “criminals who will deliberately try to take advantage of a moment… when we’re in crisis by defrauding the system.”
The CERB was unveiled by the prime minister on March 25, with the first round of payments in bank accounts within the first half of April. People who applied for EI prior to the CERB’s announcement were switched over to the new benefit, which promised $500 a week for people who lost their jobs for COVID-related reasons.
Applications for the wage subsidy opened on April 27 – more than one month after the CERB was announced. Funding began flowing to employers at the start of May. The wage subsidy was meant to cover payroll only, paying out 75 per cent of each employee’s salary, up to $847 per week.
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