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

Cascade Falls Regional Park is one of several Fraser Valley parks that saw record usage during the summer of 2020. (File photo)
Residents flock to Fraser Valley parks amid pandemic

Some trails saw usage double during summer months of 2020

A horse on Yale Road West in Chilliwack peeks out from its shelter at the rainy weather on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Several days of rain in forecast for Fraser Valley after single day of sunshine

According to Environment Canada, rain and showers are expected today until Wednesday

At the current rate of new infections, one in 53 Lower Mainland residents will catch the virus over the weeks to come. (Chart: Tyler Olsen)
GRAPHIC: One in 25 Lower Mainland residents may contract COVID-19 by February if virus continues spread

Moderate increase cases would leave one in 20 Lower Mainland residents with virus by February

Chilliwack musician Mauvey won the Dakota Leslie Fan Vote – and $2,500 – at this year’s Fraser Valley Music Awards. The virtual event was held Thursday night (Nov. 19).
Winners of Fraser Valley Music Awards announced in 16 categories

Annual awards honour artists in pop, hip hop, jazz and more

web
Mission RCMP searching for missing man

Asking the public for assistance to locate Rocky Tolfree

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

An Oceana Canada audit of Canadian fish stocks reveals a growing number with critical populations, calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to enact existing commitments. (File photo)
B.C.’s declining fisheries the result of poor DFO management: audit

Oceana Canada calls for follow through on government commitments

Reverend Patrick John (PJ) O’Maoil Mheana, ordained as Father Luke, has been named the new rector for the Church of the Holy Trinity in White Rock. (Contributed photo)
From chaos to love, White Rock’s newest priest to spread message of hope

Rev. Patrick John O’Maoil Mheana to start work at Church of the Holy Trinity Nov. 30

Randy Bell. (File photo)
Former northern B.C. mayoral candidate arrested after allegedly refusing to wear mask

Randy Bell handcuffed and given a warning at Bulkley Valley Credit Union in Smithers

James Corden on the Late Late Show talking about BC Ferries on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (Screenshot)
‘You’ll see it when you see it’: BC Ferries mask graphic gains James Corden’s attention

Turns out, James Corden fans were just as quick as B.C. social media users to pick up on the dual imagery

Most Read