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

New COVID-19 aid figures shed new light on variety of Canadians who needed the help

New COVID-19 aid figures shed new light on variety of Canadians who needed the help

OTTAWA — 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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2020.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

Innisfail RCMP say Brandon Pitts is missing. (Photo contributed)
Missing central Alberta man

Innisfail RCMP request public’s help

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver as Liberal on Wednesday February 8, 2017 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon headed for minority government as two main parties in a tie

Liberals came into the election looking to build on their surprise 2016 majority win

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Sajjan took aim at recent Chinese military expansions into the South China Sea this evening even as he faced questions about the Liberal government’s ties to Beijing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Sajjan targets Chinese claims in South China Sea, battles Tories over Beijing ties

HMCS Calgary shadowed for at least part of the voyage as it passed near the disputed Spratly Islands

Transport trucks approach the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. North American trade is facing a “critical moment” in the ongoing aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, say Canadian business leaders as they embark on a concerted campaign to fortify ties with the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Canada-U.S. trade faces ‘critical moment’ that demands urgent action, businesses warn

Will fall to Canada to ensure its best interests are represented

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Letters
Letter: Leaders like MLA Jason Stephan should work towards greater good

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan talks about the devastating social and… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Women, hit hardest by pandemic, key to economic recovery

Events of the past year have laid bare the many disparities and… Continue reading

Children at the Port Angeles Boys & Girls Club practice social distancing throughout the day to minimize the spreading of germs and potentially the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula
Opinion: Teach young people these five principles

At all ages, young people may be the subject of mean behaviours… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: MLAs need to think about all Albertans

I was surprised to find more than a dozen UCP MLAs were… Continue reading

Most Read