December 15, 2021

National anti-poverty coalition reacts to 2021 federal fiscal update – precedence set for a full CERB Amnesty

Toronto – Since June 2020, national anti-poverty coalition Campaign 2000 has been sounding the alarm about the negative consequences the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has been having for people living on low incomes.

Yesterday’s fiscal update promises a one-time repayment to low income seniors who received the CERB, which then unexpectedly reduced, and in some cases cancelled, their Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), resulting in loss of housing, homelessness, food insecurity, the inability to pay for medications and increased stress and anxiety.

The update also provides debt relief to students who received, but were ineligible for, the CERB and were eligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) by offsetting their debt with the CESB amount.

“A one-time repayment for seniors who lost their GIS and creating a mechanism to offset student CERB debt are first steps in the right direction,” said Leila Sarangi, National Director of Campaign 2000.  “Compensation must now be expanded to include anyone living on low incomes who had other income benefits reduced, including people on social and disability assistance, and those who saw their workers benefit, child benefits and housing supplements reduced.”

In an open letter to Members of Parliament sent yesterday, Campaign 2000 urged all elected officials to support a full “CERB Amnesty”, which includes ensuring pandemic emergency benefits do not interact with other types of income supplements; that anyone living on or near poverty levels who had a loss to income supplements receive full repayment to compensate for that loss; and for the federal government to immediately cease pursuing people for CERB repayments who are living in poverty, regardless of eligibility. 

CERB Amnesty also recommends the reinstatement of the Canada Recovery Benefit for individuals whose working hours are still impacted by the pandemic into Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19 and ensuring social and disability assistance adequacy standards are tied to the funds given to provinces and territories through the Canada Social Transfer.

 “No one should be left worse off for having received federal pandemic benefits in a time of crisis,” Sarangi added.  “Now that precedence is set with repayments and debt relief for certain groups, we expect that this fix will be extended to everyone living in poverty.”

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Campaign 2000 is a non-partisan, pan-Canadian network of 120 national, provincial and community partner organizations committed to working to end child and family poverty, hosted by Family Service Toronto. To download 2021 report cards or for more information, please visit http://www.campaign2000.ca.

Contact information

Leila Sarangi, National Director of Campaign 2000, 647-393-1097, [email protected]

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