A pedestrian walks past a closed storefront on St. Catherine street as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on local businesses, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

A pedestrian walks past a closed storefront on St. Catherine street as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on local businesses, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

High-income earners in Canada collected CERB, pandemic-related data shows

Tax policy experts note that many higher-income earners saw their workplaces closed

A key benefit for workers replaced lost earnings for thousands of higher-income Canadians, providing a new glimpse at the scope of federal aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $2,000-a-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit was a key part of the aid package the Liberals rolled out since March, paying out just over $81.6 billion in benefits to 8.9 million people until it ended at the start of October.

It was predominantly used by people who earned under $47,630 in 2019, figures from the Canada Revenue Agency show, but those higher up the income ladder also applied for the benefit program.

The CRA numbers show at least 114,620 people who earned between about $100,000 and $200,000 last year applied for the CERB. Another 14,070 people who had made more than $210,000 applied for the benefit.

Lindsay Tedds, a tax policy expert at the University of Calgary, noted that many higher-income earners saw their workplaces closed and self-employed workers had contracts suddenly cancelled, or invoices left unpaid.

“The point was to replace income that was lost due to the pandemic, lost because of government regulations shuttering the economy to control the virus,” Tedds wrote in an email.

The CERB was available to anyone who had made at least $5,000 in the preceding 12 months, and whose income crashed because of the pandemic, either from a drop in hours or being unable to work.

Filing a tax return wasn’t part of eligibility rules.

The issue earned a spot in the daily question period when the Conservatives asked about 823,580 recipients for whom the tax agency didn’t have 2019 income information at the time it compiled the data.

The figures, in response to a written question, were as of Sept. 23, one week before the tax filing deadline of Sept. 30.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said everyone who lost their jobs because of COVID-19-related shutdowns should have received the CERB, but he decried payment to what he called suspected fraud cases.

He asked what the government was doing to ensure “the money didn’t go to people who didn’t earn the right to receive it.”

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responded by saying any fraud would be “completely unacceptable.”

“The hardworking public servants in the CRA are doing an outstanding job and they are going to make sure that all claims are legitimate,” she said.

The CRA said in a statement Thursday that “it would be erroneous to conclude” that CERB payments to those without a 2019 tax return were being paid to “fraudsters or to non-eligible individuals.”

It added that officials will be checking claims against upcoming tax returns and payroll records to find any cases of wrongful payments.

People can still apply for back payments of the CERB until Dec. 2.

The latest figures on its replacement, the Canada Recovery Benefit, show the amount in benefits paid has risen to over $2.72 billion given to more than 1.1 million people since it became available in late September.

A wage subsidy program, which has so far paid out $48 billion, and an emergency loan program round out some of the measures the Liberals took to keep employees on payrolls, and companies from going under.

The Senate passed the government’s latest measures for businesses on Thursday, paving the way for a new commercial rent-relief program, extra help to companies subject to lockdowns, and an extension of the wage subsidy program to next summer.

Royal assent was expected later Thursday.

Data from the national statistics agency on Thursday showed companies that used the business loan program in the spring often put the money toward paying wages and suppliers.

Over half of businesses polled by Statistics Canada that received loans early on in the pandemic said the money was key to them keeping their doors open.

In all, 756,115 loans have been approved, valued at $30.24 billion, according to other figures tabled in the House of Commons this week.

The figures are up to Sept. 23, and show construction and retail companies in the top two spots for where the loans have gone by industry. About $9.8 billion in loans went to small businesses with earnings under $65,000.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. announces signage along Alberta border to discourage non-essential travel

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

Damien Kurek
MP Damien Kurek reflects on newly-released federal budget

‘Further, they recycle old promises they have consistently failed to deliver on’

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta begins rolling out AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for those aged 40 or older

There are more than 70 pharmacies offering AstraZeneca, including 26 offering walk-in appointments

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

FILE - Dan Smyers, left, and Shay Mooney from the band Dan + Shay perform on NBC's Today show in New York on June 28, 2019. The duo will perform at Sunday's Academy of Country Music Awards. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
Luke Bryan wins top ACM Award, but female acts own the night

Luke Bryan wins top ACM Award, but female acts own the night

In this undated photo provided by John-Paul Hodnett are a row of teeth on the lower jaw of a 300-million-year-old shark species named this week following a nearly complete skeleton of the species in 2013 in New Mexico. Discoverer Hodnett says it was the short, squat teeth that first alerted him to the possibility that the specimen initially dubbed "Godzilla Shark" could be a species distinct from it's ancient cousins, which have longer, more spear-like teeth. The image was taken using angled light techniques that reveal fossil features underneath sediment. (John-Paul Hodnett via AP)
‘Godzilla’ shark discovered in New Mexico gets formal name

The ancient chompers looked less like the spear-like rows of teeth of related species

sign
Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Most Read