Nunavut government clarifies who is eligible to receive emergency response benefit
People who receive income assistance as sole income ineligible for emergency response benefit
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.