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Kendall Worth: CERB, systemic harassment and bureaucratic nonsense

Gary Burrill and Kendall Worth. Contributed.

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As we all know CERB is coming to an end soon. CERB was a very short lived experience for those income assistance recipients who were receiving it.

Early on in the COVID lockdown people on income assistance who held part time jobs were told by Community Services to apply for CERB and stop receiving social assistance. There have been lots of headaches. 

See also: Some social assistance recipients qualify for CERB payments

 While those people on income assistance were receiving the CERB, they were not using foodbanks. That’s because CERB is more than double social assistance. 

When I discussed this recently with Nova Scotia NDP leader Garry Burrill we agreed that CERB is the correct amount of money people should receive to live on, and that the province should have smartened up. For more on Gary’s beliefs, see Knocking on doors with Gary Burrill to sign our petition against the claw backs.

Gary Burrill is worried that when the transition from CERB back to Income Assistance happens, they will be looking at how much these income assistance recipients have saved while receiving CERB. 

And Gary Burrill shares my concern about the recent unexpected announcement that part of the monthly CERB payment will be clawed back. Gary calls the email a combination of systemic harassment and bureaucratic nonsense.

I have now heard in the community this week that people receiving the CERB (the same people who received this email) actually woke up on Wednesday morning only to find a $500 in their bank account instead of the usual $1000.

Gary and I both agreed that any allowance coming from the Government, whether it is provincial income assistance, Employment Insurance, CPP, etc, it seems that those in charge have the authority to temper with the amount we are entitled to receive. 

What is so sad about all this is that when Gary’s office gets calls about CERB and Employment Insurance related issues, because those programs are federal, all he is able to do is refer them to Andy Fillmore’s office.  (Andy Fillmore is the Halifax Member of Parliament)

Unlike the appeals process available through Community Services here in Nova Scotia, appealing something through CRA or Service Canada is a more lengthy process. I hear this from different people in the community.

Say if you were to appeal a decision made by Service Canada today, August 8th, with their process it will likely be late October or early November. before you get a hearing.

I asked Andy Fillmore’s office about these delays. This is his response:

Good afternoon Kendall, I heard back from the Ministry regarding your questions.

When CERB was first implemented, claimants could not file an objection. However, since then, a review process has been proposed in Bill C-17 (which has not been adopted yet):

Request for review

8.‍1 (1) A person who is the subject of a decision of the Minister in respect of an application made by that person under section 5 may make a request, in the form and manner established by the Minister, to the Minister for a review of that decision at any time within 30 days after the day on which they are informed of the decision or any further time that the Minister may allow.

Review

(2) The Minister must review the decision if a request for its review is made under subsection (1). On completion of the review, the Minister must confirm, vary or rescind the decision.

Notification

(3) The Minister must inform the person who made the request of the Minister’s decision under subsection (2).

Review is final

(4) The Minister’s confirmation, variation or rescission, as the case may be, is final and is not to be questioned or reviewed in any court.

Regarding support our office can offer, we will continue to support constituents, as we always have, who cannot resolve issues with the CRA through the regular channels via the CRA’s Problem Resolution Program (PRP).

Please let me know if you have any questions, and if I receive any more information, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Thank you and all the best,

That response did not answer my question.

All I can say is, let’s hope for the sake of income assistance recipients that the transition back into income assistance through Community Services goes well. 

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

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.

One Comment

  1. DCS promised it would go smoothly, but I am not holding my breath. There has already been a difference in wording between what was promised publicly and some of the letters that individuals have received.

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