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Ontario man shocked to repay $12K in CERB payments years after using them


An Ontario man says he’s been asked to pay back $12,000 of his COVID-19 benefits years after he used them.

“I’m between a rock and a hard place. I don’t have that money now. It’s long gone,” Eduardo Tso told CTV News Toronto.

Tso said he worked in retail during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though he worked during that time, Tso’s hours and shifts were reduced, which he thought made him eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

But the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) told him he earned more than $1,000 of employment or self-employment during the payment periods he applied for CERB.

Tso was told by the CRA that he was not eligible for CERB, and that he needs to pay back $12,000.

"This has to be some kind of mistake. This is like three years ago. How can you possibly tell me I owe this money now when things are so expensive and interest rates are so high,” Tso said.

In a rush to help Canadians during the pandemic, the federal government sent out billions of dollars in CERB payments, but many Canadians who received those payments weren't eligible.

Canada’s auditor general estimated about $4.6 billion in pandemic benefits went to people it shouldn't have, and the CRA has been trying to collect that money over the past three years.

Almost 800,000 Canadians have repaid $1.4 billion in COVID benefits and the government recovered almost $240 million by holding back tax refunds.

Earlier this year, in January, CTV News Toronto spoke with a Toronto actor who also took CERB payments.

Alain D’Amours was shocked when he was told he had to pay back $23,700.

"You gave me the money to help me survive. You gave the money, it is not a loan, right now it feels like I borrowed from you and now I have to pay it back with interest," D’Amours said.

The federal government wants to collect overpayments from all its COVID-19 benefit programs, including the following:

  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
  • Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)
  • Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)
  • Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)
  • Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)
  • Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB)

According to the CRA, anyone facing financial hardship can arrange to pay back benefits over time.

Tso said he lives in his sister’s basement and declaring bankruptcy may be his only option.

"I think I qualified for this and I think the $12,000 should be completely erased. There is no way I can pay this money back,” he said. Top Stories

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