CRA says most people should receive their CERB payments by end of today

The Canada Revenue Agency says people who applied for the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) this month should receive their money today — and it’s apologizing for confusing messages some claimants might have received from the tax collector’s call centre agents.

In a statement to CBC, the CRA said applicants who applied between Monday and Wednesday of this week should see the funds deposited directly into their accounts by tonight.

Hundreds of posters to the “Canadians on $2000/month CERB Support Group” on Facebook group indicated payments were made to many accounts in the early morning hours.

People who applied after Wednesday, Sept. 2 might not receive their payments today, but they should have it within three to five business days, the agency said.

The delays stem in part from a security breach. Last month, the CRA temporarily shut down its online services after the agency confirmed it was hit by two cyberattacks that compromised thousands of accounts linked to its services.

While the breaches were quickly contained, services connected to My Account, My Business Account and Represent a Client on the CRA website were disabled as an additional safety measure — slowing the agency’s response to CERB-related matters.

“While the CRA recently implemented a number of measures to ensure that a person is properly authenticated, payments are still on track to being made within the service standard. We will continue to be there to support Canadians throughout this pandemic,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

A number of beneficiaries reached out to CBC over the last number of days to say that they had not yet received their CERB — a benefit that has become a lifeline for millions of Canadians out of work because of the pandemic.

As of last month, more than four million Canadians were still collecting the CERB, even as economic life slowly returns to normal in some parts of the country. That’s down from a high of more than eight million claimants at the height of pandemic closures.

For many claimants, a scripted message some agents recited to callers looking for updates on their CERB payments created more confusion.

Some CBC readers said they were told payments wouldn’t flow until September 11 for those who receive the money via direct deposit, or September 18 for those who still receive paper cheques.

In fact, the CRA says it meant to say that callers looking for their missing money shouldn’t call again to inquire about their payments until those dates. The CRA maintains that most people should receive their funds in the standard three- to five-day service window.

“It is possible that the taxpayers who received this information may have interpreted it to mean that their payments would be delayed until this date. The CRA regrets if this information caused any confusion or undue stress for the Canadians that called,” the spokesperson said.

Last month, the federal government announced it was extending the CERB until the end of September and revamping employment insurance (EI) rules to allow more people to receive financial assistance during the pandemic.

Those changes are expected to cost $37 billion.

The changes include making the EI system more flexible on the number of work hours required for a claim, which would make it easier for people to qualify for a one-year period.

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