Receiver General of Canada: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—April 24, 2020

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Supporting payments to Canadians

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) supports Canadians by providing financial support to employed and self-employed Canadians who are directly affected by COVID-19. It provides a payment of $2,000 for a 4-week period (such as $500 a week) for up to 16 weeks.

The CERB generated a significant increase in the volume of payments issued by the Receiver General—both direct deposits and cheques. As a normal course of business, the Receiver General Treasury issues 326 million payments a year, including 31 million cheques. The CERB payments are expected to increase the number of payments by at least 100 million new payments, with up to 33 million additional cheques.

Receiver General and Pension Branch (RGPB) staff has been working with Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to ensure the stimulus payment files are ready on time to ensure payments can be processed within the expected timeframes communicated to Canadians. With direct deposits, funds can be deposited in individual bank accounts within 24 hours following the processing of the payment file whereas it may take up to 10 days for applicants to receive a cheque. RGPB has ordered the required supplies for secure cheque paper and envelopes in sufficient quantities to meet the anticipated demand. Additionally, Print Centre staff worked over the entire long weekend to ensure cheques were printed on time.

RGPB has been working with Payments Canada, the Canadian Bankers Association and financial institutions, and CRA to institute online direct deposit registration to move more payments away from cheque and towards direct deposit. Canadians can now sign up for direct deposit through 17 financial institutions. As of April 17, close to 1,600,000, Canadians had already signed up since the launch of this initiative.

Based on the applications received for the first 2 weeks, CRA is seeing an average of 83% direct deposit rate. While this is lower than the long established programs (employment insurance 95%, pensions 99%, Old Age Security 98%, Canada Pension Plan 98%), it is higher than the anticipated 70% rate. This is likely a result of government efforts with the financial institutions to encourage people to receive their benefits via direct deposit.

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