CERB Extension Surprise: 52% Think it Was a Mistake

Last month’s Knowledge Bureau Poll brought a surprising result from tax and financial professionals: 52% thought the extension of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit was a mistake. The 48% who agreed were more prolific in their comments, however. Here’s what you said:    

First, from the no side:

“I think that businesses should be receiving financial support if they are solvent, in order to keep people working. I don’t think we should be paying able-bodied Canadians not to work (especially students)”.  - Jacqueline Crummey

“I don’t agree it should continue. I think at some point you have to stop the bleeding.  We are already so far in a deficit there is no light at the end of the tunnel.  I have numerous clients that can’t get workers. Why?  They’re earning too much on CERB and don’t want to let it go. I think there has to be a difficult conversation with the taxpayers regarding reality. What is happening now is not sustainable.  The “government” cannot support people who are not working forever. Because we are the government, and I don’t believe there is sufficient funds to continue the plethora of supports that have been given.” - Doris Woodman-McMillan

“While I agree that some support needs to continue, I don’t think CERB should continue in its current form. I think focusing support through wage subsidy is important as it allows employers to bring employees back to work even if there is insufficient business to support their full salaries. For industries where employment remains problematic, I like the phased approach where there is support but also an incentive for people to find jobs that are available even if it isn’t with a former employer.” - Susan Hopcroft

“There is no doubt that the handout was necessary. The trouble with extending it and then extending it again, ad infinitum, is that it will be very difficult to take it away when and if things do get better. I know that many people in my area saw it as manna from Heaven and no, they don’t see why they should go back to work. In that context, extending it is not a good thing.” - Mitzi-Lynne Morgan

“I think the extension should have had an incentive to return to work. With the $1,000 cut off before forfeiting your entire $2,000 benefit, many are better to not work. Instead, I would have allowed $1,000 of income and then deducted half of anything earned after that. If you make $3,000 you drop to $0 CERB. Create some incentive to work.” - Paul Nieuwland

“I have seen many young folks suddenly content to stay home and collect $500 weekly as opposed to applying their skills and knowledge to create a better future for themselves and their community.  Subsidy sends the wrong message; this will not help productivity for future generations.” - Heather Ashton

“The CERB program was poorly organized with NO solution how to extract from it, much like the other programs to battle Covid-19. . .Rather it should have been qualified similar to WCB benefits where if you returned to work but still lost wages, some compensation would be allowed. There has to be a better way to monitor the results and reduce the debt load.”  - Richard Papineau

“CERB will increase huge budget deficit and that will ultimately (result in a) taxpayer burden. Another thing. . .CERB makes people lazy and people do not try to find job and other options of income.”  - Rajendra Karki

“A temporary basic income for the duration of the pandemic would be a better strategy overall instead of all of these little bandaid programs. This helps small business, employers, employees and provides work incentive while injecting money into the local economy.”  - Lori

“Looks like especially young people or people who make minimum wage are content with $500 a week and are not willing to work if needed. Employers have a hard time to lure them back to work.” -  Marie Markus

“Extending CERB makes it more difficult for businesses to bring back lower income employees as they try to reopen their business. I would like to see more support channeled through businesses to help jump start the economy. Perhaps most important is to remove the 30% revenue reduction requirement from CEWS. The rent reduction program seems overly complicated as well, though I haven’t really looked at it well.” - Dovid Lando

Of the 48% who agreed with the extension of the CERB, the reasons were diverse:

“I’m a small business owner and whole heartedly support CERB. I have no idea how people could have managed without it. I agree with how inclusive it was to make roll out simple. It gets counted towards income so CRA will tax it later, it’s not tax free. Conversely, the US has taken a different approach to citizen aid and they are truly struggling.” - Les Solis

“$2000 is a reasonable sum to give until businesses reopen and the 2nd wave of COVID is over.” – Elie Benatar

“Some people cannot go back to work as business is not there yet; people need money.”-  Ruth White

“As long as there is some accountability for the funds once the program is complete. The government must assure all Canadians that the program was fair -  those who needed the funds were those who received the funds.” - Frank Bird

“No way I could have survived without it. My company is national and barely has their stores running. Some more than others. The nature of my work is by appointment only as well so takes longer. We are back to work but most of us only 8-10 hours a week. At least the stores are running.”  - Colleen Danchak

“I agree as it injects money into the economy, and helps avoid a depression situation we had in the 1930’s.”  - Patrick Page

“Some businesses are still unable to open beyond stage 3, so whilst I do believe it should not be issued willy nilly there are cases where through issues beyond a person’s control there is an inability to earn income. I would feel better if there was a stronger ruling regarding the use of PPE in close proximity scenarios.” - Robert

“Absolutely - there are/remain many sectors of economy that are suffering due to COVID such as tourism which will be among the last to recover.”  - AnnaMaria Magnifico

“I believe CERB is important for industries that still cannot go back to work. I complete returns for those in the artistic world, and musicians and actors are for the most part, still unable to go back to work and most likely will not be able to for the foreseeable future. The majority of them are still hustling and attempting to work online, but some simply cannot if they are stage actors, pit musicians etc. For the most part they are all self-employed. All are part of a major economic industry for Canada during ‘normal’ times. All need help. I would love to see a more comprehensive work program for artists, sort of like the WPA programs in the US in the 30’s, but until then CERB is a life for this type of worker.” - Tammi Hensch

“We need the money to be circulating in the economy.  While there may be some scofflaws who use it as an excuse not to return to work, I think those are in the minority. I doubt very much that recipients see this as a windfall.  This was a quick and dirty program the aim of which, first and foremost was to get money in people’s hands.” -  Carlton Stewart

“Lots of unemployment due to company close down or not opening.” - Patrick Domingo

“Too many people still unemployed. A lot of businesses are closed permanently especially in Alberta” - Gale

“I understand that businesses may be having a hard time getting lower income employees back because of CERB but there should be something in those cases. If they are asked to come back and deny the work. They should not be eligible for CERB anymore. I lost my job completely as I managed a gym and it closed for good. It is very helpful to me and my family right now. So, I guess there are pros and cons to the extension.” - Lindsay Busch

We thank all of you for contributing to this important question.  Please weigh in on this  month’s poll: “In your opinion, is the new two-tiered Canada Emergency Wage Supplement (CEWS) too complex?”

For more information on pandemic benefit program updates, extended filing deadlines and their financial fallout, including the complex auditing process that still lies ahead, attend to the September 30 Virtual CE Summit.