Some Calgarians unprepared for CERB clawback
CALGARY -- Jane Derowin says it’s not hard to decide what to make for supper these days — because she doesn’t have much to choose from.
"If you were to look in my fridge it’s bare, I’ve got nothing for groceries," she said. "I have bills I have to pay, that’s how bad it is for me."
Derowin worked at the Calgary airport until the beginning of the pandemic, when she was laid off.
The 71-year-old has been relying on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to make ends meet ever since.
CERB pays $2,000 every four weeks.
However, Derowin just found out her next payment will be much smaller — likely $500.
That’s because the federal government is clawing back some of the cash it initially paid out when the program was launched in March.
"This is going to leave me with nothing to live on," she said. "I can’t pay my rent, I can’t pay my bills, I can’t buy groceries, what am I supposed to do?"
Ottawa began sending money to recipients in mid-March, though some of that was essentially an advance, since the program didn’t officially start until April.
The reduction in payments for June will make up for that, with the full subsidy expected to resume in July.
This comes as the federal government attempts to retool its aid packages, extending CERB from eight weeks to 16, while also modifying the wage subsidy to encourage people to go back to work.
Some political leaders say they’re concerned the CERB is disincentivizing people from returning to their jobs, choosing to collect the benefit instead.
Derowin says she doesn’t know when she’ll be back at her old job, since airports have been virtual ghost towns since COVID-19 hit.
She says she’s looking for other work but it’s hard to find.
"I’m not used to having the door slammed in my face," said Derowin, who worked as a peace officer before starting her job at YYC 10 years ago.
"It's very hard on a person. I’ve applied for other jobs but I’m 71 years old, who is going to hire me?"
The federal government is hoping someone will. The Prime Minister has stated that the subsidy programs are meant to stimulate the economy and employment before they’re discontinued in the next few months.