February 4, 2022
The CERB Amnesty working group has been asking the federal government to stop pursuing people living on low incomes to repay that emergency benefit, and to repay anyone who had other income supports clawed back because they received CERB. In December, the federal government promised to repay low-income seniors who had their GIS payments reduced or stopped. But buried in their announcement was that the payment would not come until May 2022
Join us this Monday, February 7, 2022, as we spread awareness of CERB Amnesty and the struggle many seniors are facing right now. On Monday, reach out to Ministers Khera and Freeland to let them know that May 2022 is too late to reimburse low-income seniors.
Click here for more advocacy resources.
What is a CERB Amnesty?
The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was the first pandemic income support program that was delivered to individuals who lost work when the economy shut down as a result of COVID-19. In the fall of 2021, the CERB ended and was replaced with the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)
Confusion around eligibility resulted in recipients being deemed ineligible months after receiving the benefit. The failure to make policy adjustments resulted in other benefits being reduced, including social and disability assistance, rent supplements, Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), child benefits, worker benefits and Goods and Services Tax (GST) credits.
CERB Amnesty refers to all clawed back funds being returned to recipients whose incomes are below or near the low-income measure, immediate cessation of all current and future clawbacks and halting the pursuit of low-income tax filers found ineligible for pandemic benefits.
CERB Amnesty & GIS
Sufficient funds have been set aside to reimburse GIS recipients in May 2022 for the income they lost as a result of the earlier policy to clawback pandemic benefits. The parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) reported that typical losses to the 88,000+ recipients affected would be in the $5,000 range for each recipient.
However, many low-income seniors CANNOT wait until May 2022.
CERB Amnesty & GIS: The Consequences
Many low-income seniors cannot wait until May 2022 for reimbursement. Some have:
- Have already been evicted from their housing.
- Are on the verge of eviction.
- Their landlords cannot and will not wait until May.
- Those who live in rent geared to income housing had rental charges increase by 30% of the pandemic benefits received in addition to the GIS clawback.
- Are faced with borrowing against the future payment through payday loan outlets that can charge exorbitant interest rates and perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
This winter, while shelters are overrun because of the Omicron variant, seniors have and will continue to face eviction and have absolutely no place to go. Seniors are continuing to be evicted from their homes and we know of many seniors from across Canada who are suffering right now.
Measures to Take Immediately
- Immediately provide an interim down payment of $2,500 to all GIS clawback victims with losses of at least this amount.
- Immediately implement a $100 million housing fund for pandemic clawback victims using a very low barrier distribution method to help keep seniors housed and mitigate evictions; and
- Ensure that pandemic benefits (CERB, CRB and Lockdown) do not result in clawbacks from any other income benefits targeted for people with low and moderate incomes.
- Refund all lost benefit amounts related to CERB/CRB payments
- Stop pursuing people living on low incomes for repayments of the CERB and ensure that no payments are sought for the CRB.
- Legislate the reinstatement of the CRB at the full $500 amount weekly into Bill C-2 until Employment Insurance is reformed; and
- Drastically improve social and disability assistance programs by increasing federal investments into the Canada Social Transfer and tie funding to adequacy standards.
How To Take Action
Tweet: Minister Khera (@KamalKheraLib) & Minister Freeland (@cafreeland) about GIS clawbacks
Use the hashtags: #CERBAmnesty #Cdnpoli #MayIsTooLate
Let them know that it is unacceptable to make low-income seniors wait until May 2022 to be reimbursed.
Write to Minister Khera & Minister Freeland
Re: Emergency payment needed to support seniors who lost GIS due to CERB
My name is [Name] and I am concerned about the timeline for reimbursement for low-income seniors who had their GIS payments reduced or eliminated because they received pandemic benefits. Many are hungry, struggling to pay for medications and rent. Many have become homeless as a result. These seniors are experiencing increased stress and mental health challenges as a result of the hardship this has caused. It is unacceptable to make them wait until May 2022. Please act now.