The 38-year-old full-time student completes the third year of his BA in sociology and law at Concordia University in Montreal.
Last year, he spent the summer working in a restaurant, earning just under $ 5,000 – the threshold to qualify for CERB. For the rest of the year, Baron lived off a training allowance which he received as an Aboriginal student, but cannot legally claim it as income.
Friday, Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, confirmed that CERB is being sent to anyone who requests it.
When asked by HuffPost Canada whether Canadians who have lost their income but who are not eligible for government assistance should apply and use the money as an interest-free loan, Qualtrough ignored the question.
Although CERB is aimed at people who have lost all their income due to COVID-19, Qualtrough said that, for the sake of efficiency, the rollout of the program was designed to pay people quickly and then check if they were really qualified.
But in “the next few weeks or at tax time next year,” she said, the federal government will reconcile the accounts “to make sure people don’t play the system or pretend to be fraudulent.” which is not true. “
A senior Liberal official told HuffPost that Canadians in need can apply for CERB without any penalty.
There will be “no fines” for misuse, said the official. The Canada Revenue Agency will send a notice to people who have received too much money or who are ineligible for payments they have a certain amount of time to repay money without penalty, he said.
For Baron, this qualification is not very reassuring.
“It always makes me uncomfortable to apply, because I know that based on the criteria, I shouldn’t be applying,” he said on the phone on Friday.
Qualtrough, in fact, said at a ministers’ press conference that the government is asking people to be honest, “to say honestly if they stop working because of COVID.”
“People are more concerned with being too honest in Canada … you know, our levels of fraud are just not high,” she said, noting the use of other government programs.
Another MP, however, Toronto Liberal Adam Vaughan encourages those who do not qualify for CERB to apply anyway, saying that they should not “overreact and impose strict literal interpretationsOn his qualifications.
Baron wonders if he’s just spending money he should be asking for. He wonders if other groups, such as inmates of correctional facilities who have just been released from prison in Ontario to prevent the spread of COVID-19, will receive payments through CERB. “Because how are you going to have an income if you just got out of prison?” ” He said.
Look: Here’s what you should have on hand to apply for CERB. The story continues below.
“I asked myself: should I apply for this $ 2,000 knowing that I am not eligible and that I will have to reimburse it? Or should I wait to see if [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau changes the eligibility tool and lets students apply? And even if he does, will I have to reimburse him if I am later eligible, like in a month and I ask for it now, will I still need to reimburse him?
“I have a lot of questions about this.”
Baron said he called the Canada Revenue Agency, which told him to call his band, because the federal government had announced funding for the First Nations. Baron said his group told him they hadn’t received any money.
He called 1-800-O-Canada, where he was told that they had no information on student assistance and that he should “keep watching the news every day to find something.” “
New Democrats push for guaranteed basic income during pandemic
This week, Trudeau announced assistance for students through the Canada Summer Jobs program program but Baron is too old to be eligible and demand was scheduled to return in February.
“If you’re an adult going back to school, if you’re doing your master’s degree – I mean there are a lot of students over 30, thousands of them. We are not eligible for the summer job program. “
Baron said he had looked for jobs – grocery stores, pharmacies – and that there was nothing. He is also afraid and does not want to get sick.
He is also frustrated with the government and does not understand why the money cannot just be sent to everyone.
The NDP is pushing for a guaranteed basic income of $ 2,000 to be sent monthly to every adult during the crisis. This position was also defended by Kim Moody of Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP, who told finance committee members on Thursday that he thought the money should have been sent to everyone, and the government is focusing on how to get it back from those who don’t need it.
To date, the Liberals have announced more than nine different versions of programs affecting individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19.
” [This] is such an extraordinary situation that you put people in a position where they have to make a choice that they know is wrong, “Baron told HuffPost.
“I can apply for it and reimburse it through my taxes in the following years, because I have no other option at the moment. I have to pay my rent, I have to pay my bills like everyone else … There aren’t really any other options. “
Qualtrough announced Friday that 5.62 million Canadians have already applied for CERB and that five million applications have been processed.
She noted, however, that some received funds that they should not have – two payments of $ 2,000 – which were probably sent to those who, not knowing who they were eligible for, asked for both. employment insurance and CERB.
“Don’t worry, it’s okay. We take care of it. We sort it out, ”she said. She urged people not to call Service Canada to report the error, saying that the government would be in contact to request the refund and ensure that no one gets more than the $ 8,000 over four months to which they are entitled .
This means, she added, “if you received an additional payment this month, you should budget accordingly. “