The government has doubled up CERB payments for over 220,000 Canadians, according to new documents, shelling out over $442 million to individuals who should have received half that amount.
The new number was unveiled in an order paper question tabled July 20. The document was responding to a question Conservative MP Kelly McCauley had submitted on April 16.
“There was a total of 221,320 individuals who received payments from both ESDC and CRA,” the response, which was signed off on by Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, read.
“Of those cases, approximately $442,640,000 was paid out in double payments.”
He explained that the CRA is working with Service Canada to ensure the payments to these individuals doesn’t exceed the “maximum allowable” of $12,000 over a 12-week period.
When CERB was first rolled out, more than 1.7 million Canadians applied for the COVID-19 relief benefit within the first two days. That number has since ballooned to more than eight million unique applicants.
However, as the money started rolling in, some Canadians began reporting irregularities — including noticing that they had been paid $4,000, instead of the $2,000 per month the government had told recipients they’d be entitled to.
While the government said at the time that some of these were retroactive payments, the new documents indicate that hundreds of thousands of these payments were doubled up in error — to the tune of $442,640,000.
As of Friday, “up to 500,000” Canadians who were not eligible to receive CERB benefits have reimbursed the CRA for the payments, according to Jeremy Bellefeuille, a spokesperson from the office of the Minister of National Revenue.
These voluntary repayments can be made for various reasons, so while some of them may have been recipients of the double payment, others may have been ineligible for the benefit or returned to work earlier than anticipated.
In addition to this, the CRA has been given 11,300 leads to date of cases where claimants may have been ineligible to receive the funds.
While all of these tips of potential fraud have been sent to the CRA, that doesn’t mean they’re all confirmed incidents of fraud — though Bellefeuille has said the CRA investigates every tip it receives.
As of July 19, more than 21 million applications for CERB have been processed, with more than $61 billion in the benefit having been paid out.