The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may be over, but the fallout certainly isn’t for an Alberta couple involved a big battle with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Ron and Daria Roffel told Global News the federal tax agency has ordered them to repay $14,000 in benefits given to them via the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

The Airdrie couple argued Daria qualified for the benefits due to reduced work hours, but the CRA claimed she went over the allowable hours worked and made too much money to qualify.

“I made just over $1000,” she pointed out. “But that was the cut off.”

Daria, who is the official caregiver for Ron, said the rules around how much people were allowed to make changed midway through the process and they only applied for the money because they were in dire straits once the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“I had the choice to either be laid off or take a reduction in hours,” she said. “I took the reduction in hours. I went to 10 hours per week from 26.”

“I was in ‘protect the family mode,’” she said. “Survival mode. Let’s just get through this.”

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“It was enough to just keep us afloat — barely keep us afloat. We were able to live more like human beings.”

The Roffels said they continued to file for the money as the pandemic went on and were shocked to get an email years later stating they had to pay it back. They have filed two appeals but those have failed, and they have to pay the money back.

Until they do, the CRA has decided to get the money back in other ways.

“They have taken my tax returns,” Daria said. “My GST refunds, carbon tax rebates. Everything is being held back.”

The Roffels said they use that money to help pay their bills — including the property tax on their home — adding that losing that money has almost caused them to lose that home.

“We’ve almost had our house auctioned off twice.”

Airdrie couple battles the CRA over CERB repayment

Airdrie couple battles the CRA over CERB repayment.

Tomasia DaSilva

CRA response

Global News reached out to the CRA which said more than 8 million Canadians benefitted from the pandemic payouts and that it “remains committed to being compassionate, flexible, and supportive during this challenging time.”

It wouldn’t comment on the Roffels’ specific case, citing privacy, but added, “While those who applied for individual emergency benefits in good faith were not and will not be subject to interest or penalties, they would later have to repay amounts they were ineligible for.”

The CRA told Global News that as of June 30, 2024, approximately 613,000 individuals have fully repaid their CERB amount owing, 393,000 have partially repaid, and 299,000 have not yet repaid any amount towards their CERB amount.

The CRA process allows for two appeals and if the applicant still disagrees with the result of the second review, officials added Canadians may apply to the Federal Court for a judicial review within 30 days of the date they received the CRA decision.

The Roffels still owe about $9,000 and said they will attempt to file a judicial review or an amnesty appeal.