CERB scammers could receive five-figure fines and even jail time, as the Cabinet moves to introduce new legislation to counter those who submitted fake jobless claims, or refused to work.
According to Blacklock's Reporter, the Act Respecting Additional COVID-19 Measures would end payments to those who “fail to return to work when it is reasonable to do so and the employer makes a request for their return; fail to resume self-employment when it is reasonable to do so; or decline a reasonable job offer when they are able to work.”
Penalties could rage from six months jail time, to fines of $5,000 and additional charges of "up to three times amount claimed by fraud," for a potential maximum of $24,000.
Over 8 million Canadians claimed the benefit, according to Statistics Canada, despite data showing that only 5.5 million were jobless or had their hours slashed in the workplace.
Parliament's initial estimate for the program was $24 billion, though that figure has since reached $60 billion, according to the most recent Supplementary Estimates.
On May 22, The Commons human resources committee was told about those taking “CERB vacations”, claiming CERB or other federal benefits that they were not entitled to. “We have had numerous reports from clients and friends where former employees prefer to be on a CERB vacation rather than returning to work,” said CEO of Moodys Taxes, Kim Moody. “We are seeing and experiencing this, especially with part-time employees.”
“People who are temporarily laid off are refusing to come back to work... While speed over perfection was clearly the preferred approach, it is not clear why purposeful eye-closing to a review of contentious or even possibly a fraudulent application should occur,” Moody continued. “Leaving audits and integrity checks to the back end will obviously decrease the probability of recovering funds.”
Trudeau and other government officials had previously said that any fraud will eventually be regained on the "back end" through the income-tax system.