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

(BC Hydro photo)
BC Hydro planned power outages to darken downtown Smithers for most of day Sunday, Jan 17

Replacement of poles will affect approximately 250 customers in downtown core from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Smithers Local Health Area reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 Jan. 3 - 9. (BC CDC graphic)
Weekly new cases of COVID-19 rise to 25 in Smithers LHA Jan. 3 – 9

Northern Health reported 49 new daily cases for 497 active, 44 hospitalized, 13 in critical care

The first of two massive turbines headed from Prince Rupert for the Site C Dam near Fort St. John on Jan 10. (Photo: Supplied by Tasha McKenzie)
Massive turbines begin trek across Northwestern B.C.

Hydro-Electric turbines headed from Prince Rupert to Site C Dam week of Jan. 10 to 14

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Most Read