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Federal Memo States That Recovering $1.6B in CERB Money Imposes ‘Excessive Load’ on Investigators

The process of recovering nearly $2 billion from the more than 190,000 Canadians who took a “CERB vacation” by misusing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program would create an “undue burden” on investigators, according to a federal memo.

“Due to the subjective nature of the criteria, the difficulty of proving eligibility after the fact and undue burden that investigation would create, Service Canada will apply a risk-managed approach to these cases,” the Department of Employment wrote in a Feb. 7 memo, “Briefing Binder,” which was first obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter.

Figures showed that 190,254 people are believed to have quit their jobs to claim $2,000 monthly pandemic relief cheques. The total funds amounted to $1.6 billion.

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The memo also said that $1.2 million was paid to 391 dead Canadians, including cases of attempted identity theft.

“As part of the intake control in place for the delivery of benefits, a verification of the individual’s identity through the Social Insurance Register was conducted. Applications were not processed in situations where the applicant’s death was registered,” the document said.

The memo also confirmed that the program paid out $6.1 million in benefits to 1,522 prisoners, another $3.3 million to 704 claimants who did not live in Canada, and $2.2 million to a total of 434 children under age 15, all of whom were ineligible under the act.

The CERB Act was passed by Parliament in 2020 to provide financial support to employed and self-employed Canadians directly affected by COVID-19.

“We have had numerous reports from clients and friends where former employees prefer to be on a CERB vacation rather than returning to work,” Kim Moody, CEO of Moodys Tax Law LLP of Calgary, testified at 2020 hearings of the House of Commons human resources committee. “We are seeing and experiencing this, especially with part-time employees.”

Liberal MP Wayne Long also told the committee during 2020 hearings that he knew of employers who could not keep staff due to pandemic relief payments.

“They’ve dealt with some employees saying, ‘Well, I’m still on the CERB and I don’t really want to come back to work right now,’” said Mr. Long.

The Department of Employment said it subsequently tightened criteria and promised to recover undeserved payments for taxpayers.

“There will be the possibility for the government after the fact, if there is some suspicion an application has been made mistakenly or with intent to defraud the government, we can go back and ask the individual to explain how they were eligible,” Elisha Ram, associate assistant deputy minister, testified at the hearings.

While Parliament budgeted CERB at $24 billion, the final costs totaled $81.6 billion. Auditors have not fully accounted for the discrepancy to date.

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