Nunavut government frets about CERB clawbacks at tax time

Half of income support recipients may have taken CERB money in error

Nunavut’s acting minister of family services, David Akeeagok, says he’s concerned about how income support recipients will deal with paying back any Canada Emergency Response Benefit payments they took in error. (Screen shot)

By Jane George

The Nunavut government is worried about what will happen when the federal government claws back money from residents who took the Canada Emergency Response Benefit when they were ineligible to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s going to be very difficult for those people and we’re bracing for it,” Nunavut’s acting minister of family services, David Akeeagok, said in the legislature on Thursday, Nov. 5.

“It’s something we’re worried about.”

The CERB was a temporary federal income support for people who had stopped working due to COVID-19, amounting to $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.

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

When applying for the CERB, applicants did not need to provide proof they had been laid off or lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

As of Oct. 4, 10,010 unique applicants in Nunavut had applied for CERB payments, according to federal government statistics.

But Akeeagok was unable to tell Arviat North–Whale Cove MLA John Main during question period in the legislature just how many Nunavummiut might have taken the CERB.

His department had noted that about half of those who usually apply for income support did not request assistance from Family Services after the CERB program came out.

“We suspect that they requested from CERB instead, but people request themselves through income support,” he said.

And because they request CERB from the federal government, “we can’t keep track” of the numbers, he said.

But Akeeagok said he was concerned about the possible consequences of taking the CERB on income assistance clients when tax season comes around.

Some who took the CERB in error may have paid it back, he said.

In October, delegates to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s annual general meeting asked in a resolution that Inuit who collected CERB despite being ineligible shouldn’t have to repay.

But Akeeagok said the GN sent out the message repeatedly not to consider CERB as “free money.”

“Our premier and our government were consistent in apprising our public that this was not free money. If you lost your employment, this is what it was geared for,” he said.

A national working group is trying to evaluate the impacts of future clawbacks, he said.

“This is a federal program and they need to be cautious if they claw back,” Akeeagok said.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Fraud is fraud on

    They did not take the money “in error”. They took it fraudulently.
    .
    Stores sold all their stock of high end electronics, bootleggers and drug dealers made record profits, ATV and car rentals were through the roof. People who took the money didn’t need the money, and they spent it like they had just won 1 million dollars.
    .
    Those that took it fraudulently need to be held accountable. Fraud is fraud.

    • Posted by Oh ima on

      I’m sure some have and you probably have proof of it! Not excused what they did but poverty makes you do desperate acts! I grew up in poverty and any money my parents got went to buy food and clothes as we use to have only one pair or three of things if we were lucky! I know you can’t understand that but people are doing the best they can to escape poverty! And don’t preach about people to get jobs getting a job is another whole struggle that just keeps the insidious cycle of poverty!

  2. Posted by Ineligible on

    If you took money that you were ineligible for then you need to pay it back.
    How confusing is that?

  3. Posted by Jack Napier on

    Can the funds be paid back in iron, ore?

  4. Posted by In error? on

    No, not in error. Were all adults, so we can call it for what it is: Fraud.

  5. Posted by Reality on

    Let people, for once, suffer the consequences of their bad behaviour. Don’t bail them out. The more support you freely give people, the needier they get. Let them find a way to fix this situation. Some might even turn to employment.

  6. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    The vast majority who applied knew it was fraud and did it anyways. It was all over the radio, social media, PSA’s, the CRA site itself, etc…. It’s fraud and now it is time to pay the piper.They should have to face the consequences of paying it back and paying the fines for fraud.

  7. Posted by Trudeau’s Promises on

    People relied heavily on Trudeau’s promises to support all Canadians impacted by Covid-19 – that messaging was consistent throughout. That messaging alone gave a lot of Canadians impression that every person would be supported, and with such consistent messaging, it provided a basis for false assumptions that no amount of GN messaging could fix. It wasn’t just a wage replacement program – it was to include support for self-employment and small business owners as well, which includes many interpreters, carvers, consultants, harvesters, etc who lost some sort of income during the first wave. It was only afterwards that Parliament began questioning checks and balances and fraudulent applications, because initially, Trudeau was a little bit too caring in trying to ensure everyone was supported

    • Posted by Paradigm Shift on

      I’ve been waiting for someone to make this observation. That the government threw this money around so recklessly is not a fact that should be casually dismissed. In some way they are part of the problem here too.

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