June 17, 2024
Fraud and error under CERB may be even worse than we thought
It appears two- to-three million claims were paid that do not appear attributable to COVID-19 job losses.
It appears two- to-three million claims were paid that do not appear attributable to COVID-19 job losses.

Last Friday, Statistics Canada released its Labour Force Survey for the month of May. The numbers suggest fraud and error under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) may be even more pervasive than previously feared.

To qualify for CERB payments an individual has to have stopped working for reasons related to COVID-19. By mid-May, CERB had been paid to 7.8 million individuals. But the survey finds that in the three months from February to May only five million Canadians — employees and self-employed people — either lost their jobs or began working less than half their normal hours. In other words, two- to three-million claims were paid that do not appear attributable to COVID-19 job losses.

When CERB was introduced in March the government decided its priority was to get cash into people’s hands as quickly as possible: there would therefore be little if any review of applications. The risks of fraud and error were obvious but in an unprecedented emergency it was a price the government seemed willing to pay.

As soon as CERB applications opened in April, social media started buzzing with stories of fraud. A spokesperson for Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough confirmed that CERB applications would be automatically approved and that review and audit would be deferred until tax-filing season next year.

Last month, the National Post reported that government employees had been instructed to ignore most possible cases of cheating. Though 200,000 applications had been “red-flagged” as possibly fraudulent they were paid and would only be reviewed in future. Minister Qualtrough confirmed all this but, without providing detail, said 200,000 was not “remotely near” the real number. She presumably meant it was way too high. It turns out it may have been way too low.

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See Also:

(1) Scheer wants Francois-Philippe Champagne to answer for his million-dollar Chinese mortgages

(2) How do we recover? Move quickly and fix things, just like we’ve been doing

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