As more COVID-19 benefits get introduced in Canada, it can be confusing to know what you should, and shouldn’t, be entitled to. After the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy launched on Monday, some people have been left wondering what they should do about CERB payments. In short, if you get re-hired due to the new wage subsidy, your CERB will have to be paid back.

Earlier this week, the federal government launched their new COVID-19 benefit scheme.

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, otherwise known as CEWS, aims to cover up to 75% of an employers’ payroll, effectively paying their staff every week.

This means that some employees will be eligible to receive up to $847 per week, depending on their average weekly wage.

The purpose of CEWS is to prevent more people becoming unemployed across Canada, as well as allowing companies to keep staff on their payroll.

CERB, on the other hand, is a monthly $2,000 payment that is designed for people who have lost their job, or who are working reduced hours, due to the pandemic. 

While it can be a little confusing to work out whether you should be claiming CERB or CEWS benefits, one thing is for sure. You cannot claim both.

Because the two payments overlap, anybody who was claiming CERB but now wants to claim CEWS, will have to pay the former back.

The new wage subsidy is retroactive to March 15, which means that rehired employees claiming the CEWS can receive a lump sum of backdated pay.

However, if they were previously laid off or working heavily-reduced hours, and therefore claimed the CERB, the $2,000 per month benefit will have to be paid back.

In short, if you get rehired and are able to claim the CEWS, you cannot continue to receive the CERB.

In a press conference on Monday, the Prime Minister made it clear that "double-dipping" COVID-19 benefits would not be tolerated.

Trudeau explained, “It’s one or the other, not both.”

For now, it is technically possible to receive both funds, as the government is automatically approving all CERB applications.

However, when applications are checked at a later date, anybody ineligible who claimed the cash will be asked to pay it back.

“People should keep that in mind that if you’re getting both, you should probably put one of them aside so that you can pay that back and you don’t get overly challenged with that down the road,” Trudeau stated.

If you’re not sure what you’ll have to pay back, or if you’ll have to pay back anything at all, don’t worry.

In a statement to the National Post, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) explained that they’ll be contacting anybody who is not eligible for certain payments, to let them know that they’ll have to pay this cash back.

Starting May 11, the CRA is also launching a new payback tool on its website, which will allow Canadians to start the reimbursement process.

It’s also worth remembering that CERB payments are taxable, depending on how much you earn.

Additionally, if you’re choosing not to work you may have to pay CERB benefits back in the future.

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