Nunavummiut who are receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) are “most likely” not eligible to receive income assistance, says Jarrett Parker, director of Income Assistance with the department of Family Services in Nunavut.

Income Assistance (IA) is a territorial program aimed to help individuals and families to meet their basic needs when they are unable to provide for themselves, explained Parker.

On May 26, Iqaluit’s Councillor Kyle Sheppard said the GN plans to reduce income support from those receiving CERB during a regular council meeting.

“Those Nunavummiut, who are legitimately receiving this federal benefit, who may also be on income assistance now, are having their income assistance clawed back,” he said.

“Those Nunavummiut, who are legitimately receiving this federal benefit, who may also be on income assistance now, are having their income assistance clawed back,” says Councillor Kyle Sheppard. photo courtesy of Kyle Sheppard

When Nunavut News asked Parker whether the GN is reducing income support from those receiving CERB, he said, to qualify for IA, applicants are assessed on the total income they received in the prior month.

Generally, a single person in Iqaluit may receive $682 per month with IA, he said. However, those who apply for CERB will receive $2,000 per month, which is almost three times the amount from IA, explained Parker.

This CERB of $2,000 exceeds the lower income level needed to qualify for IA.

Using another example, Parker said any single person who has earned $2,000 in a month is unlikely to be eligible for IA because that individual already has $2,000.

“Income assistance operates under the income assistance regulations, and we never claw back money from individuals,” said Parker.

During the press conference on May 28, Health Minister George Hickes said he was uncertain whether IA has been reduced from those receiving CERB.

However, he added, “If somebody’s not entitled to be collecting CERB, yet it goes through their bank account, they would automatically be clawed back for their income support.”

According to a May 13 news release, the GN requires Nunavummiut who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 to apply for CERB before applying for IA.

“We have to ask people to apply for all financial resources available to them and make sure they’ve applied for those programs (CERB) before we’re eligible to assist them,” said Parker.

He also reiterated Premier Joe Savikataaq’s message that CERB is not free money.

“This is not free money. It is considered income. It is a taxable benefit intended to help people who have been laid off or whose employment has been impacted because of the pandemic,” said the premier during a May 14 press conference.

“Those who are applying for it (CERB) and receiving it, who may not necessarily be eligible, will be pursued at some point by probably the Canada Revenue Agency for the taxes on it,” said Parker.

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Rajnesh Sharma

Rajnesh Sharma is a Canadian journalist, who has extensively travelled the world to experience various cultures. She has lived and worked internationally over the past decade, meeting and interviewing...