TORONTO – A Canadian family who has lived in New Zealand for the past 18 years said they had received a COVID-19 benefit check addressed to their disabled daughter who died in 2009, despite never applying for any financial assistance.
Sandra Walsh and her family moved from Winnipeg to Christchurch, NZ in 2003 with their four children. At that time, their youngest daughter Bonnie, who had Down’s syndrome, was one year old.
Walsh explained in Zoom’s interview with CTVNews.ca in March that Bonnie was diagnosed with cancer two years after arriving in New Zealand. Bonnie later died in 2009, at the age of seven.
“Imagine my surprise to find a letter from the Government of Canada in our mailbox, here in Christchurch, a check for $ 600,” Walsh said.
Walsh said no information was included with the check, the memo line simply said, “Benefit Payment,” and it was addressed to Bonnie.
Walsh said the family notified the Canadian consulate in New Zealand when Bonnie died and filled out related documents in 2009. He said the family later received a death certificate for Bonnie, as well as her canceled passport.
Walsh said they had not received a letter from the Canadian government since.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Walsh said the family did not apply for any financial assistance through the Canadian government, because they do not live in Canada and do not need support.
“I didn’t even think about doing that, because we don’t really have a pandemic here in New Zealand,” Walsh said.
“It seems strange that the Canadian government would send pandemic support to someone living in New Zealand,” he added.
While Walsh admitted it was clear there was a mistake in issuing a check to a deceased Canadian citizen living in another country, he said he was confused about how no one caught the mistake before the check landed in New Zealand.
“It just takes a lot of money to make a check, do all the work and then send it,” he said, adding that the resources could be used for other Canadians who are still alive and in need.
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday that a benefit check addressed to Bonnie was a one-time payment of $ 600 for PwDs to help with additional costs incurred amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many Canadians are eligible for this one-time payment, including Canadians with a Disability Tax Credit (DTC) certificate, and recipients of a Canadian Pension Plan Disability (CPPD), Quebec Pension Plan (QPPD) disability pension, and seven Canadian Veterans Affairs Benefits ( VAC) from July 1, 2020, “said ESDC in an emailed statement.
“Because children with disabilities can qualify for DTC, some will receive a one-time stipend.”
The ESDC explained that the payment was based on Canadian Revenue Agency records and said the agency “will only have information about a person’s death if a family member has contacted CRA or Service Canada to notify them of the child’s death.”
“If the children do not have an identifiable Canada Child Benefit (CCB) parent or guardian at the CRA by July 1, 2020, the check will be written in their name,” said ESDC.
According to the ESDC, a one-time payment is provided to an estimated 1.7 million Canadians with a disability.
The department did not provide information on whether it had been notified of another check sent in error, but said Walsh’s case was “extremely rare and unfortunate.”
“The Canadian government deeply regrets the immeasurable loss of this family,” said ESDC.
While Walsh said his family notified the government of Bonnie’s death through the Canadian consulate in New Zealand in 2009, he said he was not told he was responsible for contacting separate departments within the government, including CRA, to make sure each one knew. Bonnie has died.
“Being in New Zealand we did the right thing by contacting the Canadian consulate here, who told us we could file our child’s death with them and they would pass the information on to the government. The consulate acknowledged it was an amazing experience. And they will take it from there, “explained Walsh.
Since her family left Canada when Bonnie was a baby, Walsh said she didn’t expect her daughter to have any record with CRA.
“Given that we never received a Disability Tax Credit certificate or any payment for our child with disabilities and left the country when he was one year old, I’m not sure how there will be records of where the Disability Tax Credit certificate came from to issue the payment,” said Walsh.
Walsh said he hopes other parents do not have to “experience the joy of the letter addressed to their deceased child” because they did not inform CRA of their death.
Since Bonnie turns 19 in June, Walsh said he understands why the check was issued in his name. However, he said it would not make sense for the government to then say the payment went to his parents’ address in New Zealand.
COULD BE ‘VERY STRONG’ FOR OTHERS
When Walsh found the letter in his mailbox, he said he was confused and a little surprised. If he received the check a year or two after Bonnie died, he said it “would knock him down.”
“If someone’s child has recently died and they get a support check, it can be very upsetting,” Walsh said, adding that this is not the first time Bonnie has received a letter after her death.
She explained that her family received a satisfaction survey from Bonnie’s hospital regarding a missed appointment. Walsh said he missed the appointment because he had died.
Although Walsh never planned to cash the check because it was not addressed to him, he said it would be great to donate to the New Zealand Champion Center, which provides multi-disciplinary early intervention services to children with significant disabilities, in Bonnie’s honor. .
“But I don’t think I should have done it. It would be a scam … to cash my daughter’s check who has not lived for 12 years,” he said.
ESDC told CTVNews.ca that “payment must be refunded” and provided a mailing address and website link at what to do when a loved one dies to be forwarded to Walsh.
He said the information on the link was “informative,” but a little late.
“If our other child dies, we now know what to do. I don’t know if the link was available twelve years ago,” Walsh said in response.
He said no one from ESDC or CRA had contacted him directly about the check.
Walsh said he would return the check if he could find it. He said CRA can freeze him until then.
“There’s a picture of it. Feel free to stop paying Bonnie’s check. She won’t cash it any time soon,” Walsh said.
Edited by Ryan Flanagan of CTVNews.ca