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Budget must provide amnesty to low-income earners hit by CERB tax

Parliament Hill Ottawa
April 9, 2021 - 12:00 AM

April 9, 2021

TORONTO—Unifor is calling on the federal government to provide amnesty in next week’s budget to low-wage workers facing a major tax hit on Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments during a tax season that coincides with the financial fallout of wave three of COVID-19.

“It was essential that CERB monies get into the hands of workers in need, and by foregoing taxes on these initial payments the government helped put money back into the economy at the right time,”  said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “However, the reality is the pandemic is far from over, especially for low-wage workers. It’s both unfair and inappropriate to saddle them with a tax bill now when jobs are lacking and finances still hurting.” 

A new briefing paper by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) shows that CERB-related income taxes to federal and provincial governments will total $14.4 billion. More than 400,000 CERB recipients are living below the poverty line, approximately half of whom would be lifted out of poverty if they didn’t have to pay taxes on their CERB income. Unifor is encouraging Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to use the occasion of the April 19 federal budget to show amnesty for low-wage workers, by waiving those taxes owed on CERB, and encourage provinces to follow suit.

“These payments were used to provide necessities to financially survive the pandemic so it’s unlikely that these families have potentially thousands of dollars to pay in taxes,” said Dias. “It’s ironic that the benefit payments meant to keep people out of poverty now condemns them to it.”

The union is also renewing it’s federal budget recommendation for the federal government to provide amnesty for workers facing CERB clawbacks due to mistaken application or overpayment, including Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (SUB). The CERB prevented workers from receiving additional employer-paid benefit top-ups through Service Canada-registered SUB plans.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector and represents 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For media inquiries or to arrange a Skype, Zoom or Facetime interview please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org or 416-896-3303 (cell).