A $133M uncashed cheques cache
OAS, CPP, EI payments unclaimed
OTTAWA • A bit short on cash? One federal department is sitting on a windfall of nearly $133 million in uncashed cheques by Canadian taxpayers who received at least one of 10 benefits in the last 20 years.
Did you once claim Employment Insurance (EI) and forgot to cash one of your cheques? Maybe you received money via the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and suddenly stopped receiving cheques after a move?
If so, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and the Receiver General of Canada may have money for you.
According to data obtained by the National Post, ESDC has over 323,477 unclaimed or uncashed cheques issued from at least 10 different social programs and benefits as of September 30, 2019. Total value: $133 million.
Over half of that amount is from the Canada Pension Plan, where nearly $71 million is lying dormant via 196,696 uncashed cheques.
The second largest cache of unclaimed money is from the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, a monthly payment available to eligible seniors. Over 70,313 OAS cheques are still waiting to be cashed, worth just over $46 million.
Another $8 million worth of cheques are sitting in ESDC’S General Accounts Payable.
Other amounts are from federal programs that disappeared long ago, such as the 1,258 uncashed cheques related to the Government Annuities program. The sale of those annuities ended with an Act of Parliament in 1975, though the government continues to pay out some of them today.
If you’ve once applied for a Canada Apprentice Loan, a program that provides up to $4,000 in interest-free loans to help pay for technical training, it may be your lucky day. ESDC is looking for the owner of a single uncashed cheque worth … $3.87.
ESDC says every time a cheque is sent back to the department from either OAS, EI or CPP, public servants do their best to investigate and reissue the payment as quickly as possible.
But in some cases, the original owner is nowhere to be found.
“In certain situations, the OAS, CPP, or EI cheque payments will remain uncashed for reasons beyond the control of the Department. These payments remain available to the beneficiaries until information is received to enable the Department to release the payments,” explained ESDC spokesperson Marie-eve Sigouin-campeau.
As of now, there is no online tool available to Canadians to quickly check if they have any unclaimed amounts from ESDC.
“Should Canadians have reason to believe they have uncashed cheques, they can contact Service Canada. If a person has an uncashed cheque, once their identity has been validated, the Department will take the necessary steps to investigate and reissue a cheque to them,” Sigouin-campeau explained.
ESDC isn’t the only federal organization sitting on unclaimed taxpayers’ money.
In March, the National Post reported that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) was sitting on roughly $1 billion in uncashed cheques owed to five million Canadians.
In order to find each owner, the agency created an online verification tool that every taxpayer can access via CRA’S website. Once logged in to the agency’s “My Account” service, click on the “Uncashed cheques” link at the bottom of the “Related services” column on the “Overview” page.
Since then, CRA says Canadians have redeemed roughly 268,000 uncashed cheques worth a total of $63.7 million. That means there is still at least over $900 million waiting to be claimed and cashed by taxpayers.
“A cheque is added to the ‘uncashed list’ if it is not redeemed within six months of being issued. Therefore, the total number and value of uncashed cheques fluctuates daily, as more cheques are added to the list, while others may have been redeemed,” spokesperson Étienne Biram said by email.
He added that payouts were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the program is now back to running full speed. Regular processing times for uncashed cheque claims is four to six weeks.
Other than CRA and ESDC, the Bank of Canada is also looking for the owners of nearly $900 million in unclaimed bank accounts, some of which date back to the beginning of the 20th century.
As of Dec. 31, 2019, Canada’s central bank was holding on to over 2.1 million “unclaimed balances” worth $888 million that belong to either individuals or businesses.
But the Bank of Canada doesn’t have the resources to hunt down every single owner of the forgotten accounts. So it set up an online registry for anyone to find out if they or a loved one has money waiting for them.
To access it, click on the “Unclaimed Balances” link under the “Core Functions” tab on the Bank of Canada’s website to find the search portal.