An Independent politician in Newfoundland and Labrador says he has been fielding calls from residents who have received cost-of-living cheques for spouses who have recently died.
Mount Pearl-Southlands MHA Paul Lane told CBC News on Friday he has heard from five people, so far, who have received cheques issued to a deceased spouse.
“I guess what’s happening is they’re simply looking at the 2021 [tax] returns and if you filed a return you’re getting sent a cheque in the mail,” Lane said. “Of course between that time and now, obviously, people can pass away.”
On Oct. 5, the Liberal government announced it would issue a one-time relief cheque of up to $500 to residents who are 18 years old or older as of Dec. 31 and who filed a 2021 tax return with an income of $125,000 or less. Cheques began getting sent out earlier this month.
So far, the government says 110,000 cheques have been processed.
Lane said he believes the rush to make good on the government’s commitment to have cheques in people’s hands before Christmas is likely the reason why there have been hiccups in the plan. He said he thinks there will be more problems as cheques continue to roll out.
“I suspect there will probably be people who won’t get their cheques who should, as an example, and cheques going to wrong addresses and that type of thing,” he said. “But that’s the type of thing that happens, I guess, when you don’t unnecessarily have all your ducks in a row before you initiate a program.”
The province has said cheques will be mailed to eligible residents based on their address on file with the Canada Revenue Agency as of June this year.
But Jim Dinn, interim leader of the provincial NDP, is wondering why there isn’t a direct deposit option.
In a media release issued Friday, the NDP pointed to Prince Edward Island, which is running a similar program through the Canada Revenue Agency and using direct deposit.
The NDP said calls are rolling in from people scrambling to ensure their mailing address is up to date and some seniors have to make plans to sign cheques over to someone they trust to make the deposit on their behalf.
“If the priority was getting these funds to people efficiently, the logistics should have been worked out with Canada Revenue Agency to have this sent with the GST/HST quarterly payments in October,” said Dinn in Friday’s statement.
“These funds would be in accounts of people registered with CRA, and we could have focused resources to get physical cheques sent to the rest.”
The NDP said it asked the Liberal party why direct deposit with the CRA was not being used. An email from the Department of Finance to the opposition party said, “Each individual would have had to apply individually, adding barriers to cheques being sent out.”
But the NDP said the P.E.I. government recently announced no application is needed.
“If these cheques are meant to provide relief, then get them out in the most efficient way possible, don’t add steps,” Dinn said.
In an email to CBC News, Finance Department spokesperson Victoria Barbour said the government isn’t able to determine who has died after filing their 2021 taxes, and the cheques sent to dead people don’t have to be returned.
“In cases where payments are made to a deceased individual they should be deposited by the administrator or executor of the estate, in accordance with their authority,” she wrote.
Lane said he has been pointing residents toward the department’s helpline and email address if they have concerns.
“I don’t want to give people false information or bad advice, quite frankly, and I’m not certain if the intent would be if the cheques would go with the estate,” he said.
“But I don’t want to be the one to officially tell someone that and then they go ahead and do it and get in trouble down the line.”
Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador