Sask. residents fighting to reverse provincial CERB clawback

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was aimed at helping people through the pandemic, and now people who received other benefits may have to pay it all back.

As it stands, anyone who received CERB while receiving provincial income assistance, must pay back their CERB loans fully by December 31st.

Peter Gilmer with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry says Saskatchewan is the only western province to have this rule in place.

“Many provinces have handled this differently. British Columbia, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories all gave a 100 percent exemption upfront so people knew that they could actually benefit from CERB,” said Gilmer. “Here unfortunately, it is being taken dollar for dollar, and we think that it’s fundamentally unfair.”

Gilmer says by the province clawing back the money, CERB inevitably caused more harm than good. He adds he understands why it was needed, but the government should have been clearer.

“Those folks on income assistance did not benefit from (CERB),” said Gilmer. “During the nine months of the pandemic, there’s been a situation where there’s only been a one-time fifty-dollar payment from the province for Covid-related costs. There’s been no additional benefit to the lowest income people in Saskatchewan.”

Gilmer says this petition wouldn’t be needed if the government had taken action before the pandemic.

“If we had better benefit programs to begin with, the whole CERB claw back question wouldn’t be as significant,” said Gilmer. “Because income assistance rates are so low, you’re finding people in lengthy periods where they are now having to go without income.”

Gilmer says while the petition has been brought up in the Saskatchewan Legislature, they won’t stop fighting until the claw back is removed.

More from 620 CKRM