He applied for the CERB once and got $3,500 in 3 weeks, but Ottawa says it’s not an error

After he was temporarily laid off due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, William Don Falconer says he submitted a single application for federal income support through Service Canada. And yet so far, the government has sent him $3,500 in the span of three weeks.

That’s far more than Falconer thought he would receive under either employment insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Falconer, who is based in Vancouver and was until recently working as a hotel manager, is one of several Canadians who have taken to social media or contacted reporters to flag what they thought were overpayments that aren’t connected to mistakes in the application process.

The government, though, says there’s nothing to worry about.

“Canadians who apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) through Service Canada and the Employment Insurance program, and meet the eligibility requirements, will receive an initial payment of $2000. They will then be paid $1000 every two weeks based on their biweekly reports submitted,” Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) told Global News via email.

“Due to the timing of the release of the $2000 initial payment and depending on when claims were finalized, some clients may already have received their first payment, or even their first two payments for the CERB. These clients would also have received the initial $2000 payment, as an advance of weeks to be paid later on in their claim.”

Still, no one will receive more than 16 weeks’ worth of benefits for a maximum amount of $8,000, the government reiterated.

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“There have been no errors with payments related to claims established through the EI system,” ESDC said.

The CERB provides $2,000 every four weeks for up to four months to Canadians, whether employed or self-employed, who lost most or all of their income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications opened on April 6 for the period between March 15 and April 11, with Canadians able to apply for the following four-week period — from April 12 to May 9 — starting on Monday, April 13.

Those who made the mistake of applying for income support twice should expect a call from the government, Qualtrough said. Although it’s not clear yet how the federal government will handle these overpayments, the minister said it won’t necessarily be a clawback.

“We’re still getting a handle on how many of these double payments actually happened, which were completely driven by confusion by applicants of the need to apply once or twice,” Qualtrough said.

Those in Falconer’s situation, on the other hand, don’t have to worry about paying the money back. However, they face a different set of challenges: budgeting and confusion, according to Falconer.

Speaking before Global News had heard back from ESDC, Falconer said he understood he would not be receiving more than $8,000 for four months.

“The way I’m looking at it is, ‘OK, well, I’ve got $3,500 of my total $8,000,’” he said.

But others he has been speaking to who are in a similar situation seem to expect they will be receiving $3,500 a month, he told Global News.

Falconer is concerned many Canadians will have a rude awakening in 2021 when they file taxes and discover they owe more than expected because the government isn’t withholding taxes at source on CERB payments.

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