Nunavut government clarifies who is eligible to receive emergency response benefit

People who receive income assistance as sole income ineligible for emergency response benefit

Finance Minister George Hickes says some people on income assistance may be eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, depending on their employment status. A news release put out by Family Services said Nunavummiut whose only income in the last year was from income assistance payments are not eligible for the CERB. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

The Government of Nunavut is clarifying who can apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Nunavummiut who received income assistance as their sole income in the last year are not eligible to receive the CERB, the Department of Family Services said in a public service announcement.

The CERB is a temporary federal income support benefit that provides people who have stopped working due to COVID-19 with $500 a week, for up to 16 weeks.

“If you receive CERB and were not eligible to, you will be required to repay the amount you received to the Government of Canada. Be aware that CERB payments will impact your IA [income assistance] payments and are taxable,” the PSA said.

The GN also said people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 are required to apply for CERB before applying for income assistance. Those who quit their jobs voluntarily are not eligible for the CERB.

People who earned more than $5,000 in the last 12 months from other employment are eligible to apply for the CERB.

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, May 14, Premier Joe Savikataaq cautioned Nunavummiut that the CERB is not “free money” and is considered income.

“It is a taxable benefit intended to help people who have been laid off or whose employment has been impacted because of the pandemic. If your circumstances have not changed because of COVID-19, please don’t access this program. If you are not eligible for this program, you will likely have to pay some or all of it back in the future,” Savikataaq said.

Adam Lightstone, MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak, said he thinks the GN should make exceptions for those receiving income assistance. He noted that Yukon and the Northwest Territories have both exempted the CERB from income assistance calculations.

“I don’t think the federal government really did a good job of warning individuals that this money will be clawed back if you do not meet the eligibility criteria,” Lightstone said.

“I’m a little bit disappointed with the Government of Nunavut. At every sitting, there’s always complaints regarding Nunavut’s income assistance program and how it really penalizes the individuals and the recipients.… I think what we should be doing is trying to make it easier.”

Lightstone said he reached out to members of Nunavut’s cabinet with his concerns but the spring sitting, which has been cancelled due to the pandemic, would have been an ideal time to bring it up.

Health Minister George Hickes said the PSA from Family Service was put out to clarify who could apply for the CERB and prevent those are not eligible from applying for it.

People on social assistance would still be eligible to receive the CERB, depending on their employment status, Hickes said.

Hickes also said Nunavut’s income assistance program works differently than in the other two territories.

“Nunavut has a very different scenario … with our income assistance, with our power rates, with our rental rates, different subsidies that are applied in addition … to just the actual money that is transferred. It’s a continual evaluation process,” Hickes said.

Hickes said Family Services is following up to see how many people on income assistance have applied for the CERB, but did not have exact numbers at this time.

“We’re looking at all different areas and demographics that are impacted to make sure that there’s no unnecessary suffering.”

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, Nunavut’s member of Parliament, said her office has been putting out information on how to apply for federal benefits on social media. Her office is also planning to mail out information, she said.

In Nunavut, income assistance recipients are required to report all income to their income assistance worker.

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Useless since march 14 on

    March 14 2020 they started applying and now finely answer for inuit.hicks your was late n it will cause issues

    • Posted by Reality on

      It was clear from the outset that income support recipients who did not work were not eligible, but chose to ignore that and apply anyway, as the process was so easy. If the person applying actually read the criteria, they would know they were not eligible. The government is only “clarifying” because it’s become known that abuse is rampant and many, if not most, people on income support are wrongly claiming the easy free money.

    • Posted by Fraud on

      It was very clear off the start, regardless of what MLA Lightstone said. When you apply for the CERB you check a box that states that you acknowledge that NONE of the following applies to you, including if you make less than $5k last year or if you receive IA. By acknowledging that and still moving forward with obtaining the benefit, you are basically committing fraud.

  2. Posted by wondering on

    funny..they dont care..Government does not put any accountability in place for it..then what you expect?? cancel it all together..

  3. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    If you did your research and asked questions I would hope that you put money away to pay the taxes otherwise you will have a brutal return or pay back next tax season.

    What’s worse is the amount of people who applied because it was “free money” and are now spending it on pet cheetahs, rolexes and fancy cars”

    Well, bootleggers and drug dealers but you get the idea.

  4. Posted by Senior citizen on

    To expect income support recipients to sit back and watch while wealthy Canadians who have high paying jobs get familial assistance and not want the same is shameful. To go without enough income for a couple of months is not very difficult, however never having enough is devastating. And to threaten to penalize recipients for asking is a new low. We have the riches country in the world yet we still can justify punishing the poor for being poor.

    • Posted by Alex L on

      Yeah because having a job means you are wealthy? So losing a job means you should be able to survive because you are wealthy? Pretty dumb comment…..that’s why people chose to work till they die. Right senior citizen

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      A high income earner who lost his/her job as a result of Covid is just as eligible as anyone else who qualifies to collect CERB. The rules are clear and unfortunately the GN has chosen not to exempt IA recipients.

  5. Posted by Senior citizen on

    To Alex
    I said HIGH paying jobs, of course not all people with jobs are wealthy. If your to stupid to understand what you read maybe you should keep your comments to yourself.

  6. Posted by Shak on

    Nothing is said about peoples which are immunocompromised such as lupus and diabetes??Are they eligible for the CERB?

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      If you left your job voluntarily then you are not eligible for CERB, doesn’t matter as to the reason. However if your employer laid you off for your own health and safety then you are eligible if you meet the other criteria.

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