Pattie Lovett-Reid: Why you can't claim both EI and the CERB
It’s never a good idea to double dip.
Last week we began to see Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments flow through to those who have lost their income due to COVID-19.
Some have erroneously received double payments – both an Employment Insurance (EI) and CERB payment as result of applying for both.
I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt to those who lost their job on March 15 or later and immediately applied for EI only to learn of the new CERB entitlement. Some may have innocently applied for that benefit as well.
The government tried to make it clear. If you lost your job and applied for EI after March 15, you would automatically be enrolled in CERB. That message could have been lost on those applying for both benefits.
However, an innocent mistake or not, this is a classic example of double dipping. Once they have the resources and time, the government will come looking for the overpayment. And so they should.
You won't be difficult to track down through your social insurance number being the identifier for both programs.
As of March 15, if you had applied for EI you were automatically enrolled into the CERB; however, the programs are different. With the CERB you have up to $2,000 per month for a maximum four-month period. If you qualified for EI, once the CERB runs out, you will be transferred back to EI for payment continuation.
The call to action: If you received two payments, set the money aside and be prepared for the clawback. You may want to self-identify to the government. It is better to plead guilty with an explanation than to have the government come knocking.
Whether you receive EI payments or CERB, both are taxable. So you might want to tuck some money aside to give back to the government at tax time next year. Otherwise, you might find yourself falling further behind.