Receiver General of Canada: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—June 16, 2020

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Supporting payments to Canadians

For individuals, the Canada Emergency Benefit (CEB) issues payments for 2 programs. The first, known as 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 (that is, $500 a week) for up to 16 weeks. The second, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, supports post-secondary students who have also been impacted by COVID-19. It provides a payment of $1250 for a 4-week period ($2000 for students with dependents or who are disabled) for up to 16 weeks.

For businesses who have been affected by COVID-19, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) provides a wage subsidy of 75% of employee wages for up to 24 weeks.

The CEB and CEWS have 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. These 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.

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. As of June 3, 2020, more than 1,700,000 Canadians and over 300,000 Canadian businesses have signed up for direct deposit since the launch of these set of initiatives.

Based on the applications received as of June 10, 2020, CRA is seeing direct deposit rates of 83% for CEB and 58% for CEWS. 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 rates of 68% for CEB and 15% for CEWS that CRA had estimated at the outset. This is likely a result of government efforts with the financial institutions to encourage people and businesses to receive their payments via direct deposit.

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