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Kendall Worth: Sudden CERB confusion causes anxiety, financial difficulties for low income people

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I have heard from several people on CERB who received an email on Thursday July 30 that has them very concerned, because it says people will lose CERB money they were counting on. 

This is what the letter states.

“When you first applied for the CERB through Service Canada, you received a payment of $2,000. This was an advance of four weeks of the CERB, which was issued in order to get money in your pocket as quickly as possible.

“Because of this advance, you will receive either no payment when you complete your next report or two reduced payments when you complete your next two reports. This will depend on your reporting schedule and your ongoing need for benefits, and is equivalent to the first two-week period of the advance. We will communicate with you about the second half of the advance in the coming weeks.”

These past couple of days I’ve learned about a lot of anxiety in my community over this. These are people on income assistance who also work part time and therefore qualified for CERB. 

I wrote about how  the $2000 a month made a difference in the lives of people on income assistance who were receiving the CERB. I also wrote about concerns in my community about jail time and fines if people made mistakes when applying for CERB.

Keep in mind that we are dealing with people on income assistance with part time jobs, who applied for CERB because Community Services told them to do so. 

See also: CERB rules leave income assistance recipients confused and worried

This latest email has them worried that when they wake up on Tuesday or Wednesday morning of next week they are going to find that the $1000 payment they were counting on is not in their bank account. They are worried that because of this payment not being in their bank account, rent and bills are going to get behind. 

The general language has people confused as well. The email talks about how people should be making plans to go back to work. 

Some of the people who received this email actually have set dates as to when they will be returning to their previous employment. Others developed non-Covid related medical conditions while off work that are making it difficult for them to return to work. Those are things that should be taken into consideration.

People I talked with are also surprised that this is happening now instead of waiting till tax time. It was our understanding when COVID-19 first hit, that recovering any funds mistakenly received was not going to happen until income tax time.

Turns out that Halifax Member of Parliament Andy Fillmore’s office is not answering their phones today. I called them on Friday around 2pm and again around 2:45pm after not hearing back from them.

I heard this in the community as well. Also, calls are not getting returned from the Processing Center at Service Canada.

I want to end this by saying that if we had a guaranteed income in this country this tampering with income would not be happening.

You can read the full government email here.

Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

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