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Multiplex on the hook for half a million

CRA audit means paying back CEWS
Multiplex front desk_File_WEB
Had the Athabasca Regional Multiplex not received CERB funding at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would have lost staff. Now over $500,000 will have to be paid back, as it turns out the facility was ineligible for the funding.

ATHABASCA — The Athabasca Regional Multiplex Society (ARMS) got a punch to the gut last week after receiving news the Canadian Emergency Workers Subsidy (CEWS) money it got at the start of the pandemic needs to be paid back. 

In a June 29 press release from ARMS chair and Town of Athabasca Coun. Dave Pacholok said a letter from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) dated June 8 said the Multiplex did not meet the requirements and must pay back $523,965.82. 

“In CRA’s view, we are an entity operated and controlled jointly by the Town of Athabasca and Athabasca County; therefore, not eligible for CEWS,” he said. 

The deadline to pay it back is July 8 and the Town of Athabasca council held an emergency meeting June 29 to make the motion to pay back its half – $261,982.91. Athabasca County added it to their June 30 agenda as an emergency item .... 

“The Athabasca Regional Multiplex management applied for CEWS in 2020, as we met the general eligibility criteria,” Pacholok said. “Criteria 1 was to have an active CRA payroll account. Criteria 2 was to be a type of employer from the list, which we are, a non-profit organization. As well as the employer needed to see a drop in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

The accounting firm at the time advised management to go ahead with the application for funding and Pacholok is hopeful they can convince the government to let them keep the money. 

“We're going to hopefully be able to explain our position by saying that instead of being with CEWS that these same people would be on CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit)," he said in a June 29 interview. “And so, there was money saved that way for the government and hopefully by that logic, they will be able to reimburse us for some of our expenses, because ... they would pay them one way or pay them the other.” 

With CEWS, the Multiplex still paid 75 per cent and the federal government picked up the rest. Under CERB it was 100 per cent federally funded and with CEWS the Multiplex kept all their staff working. 

“When we did finally get to reopen in full, we could hit the ground running which was another important part of it, because not necessarily would we have been able to get those same people if they would have been gone,” he said. 

In the meantime, the money will be paid back and Pacholok said they will lobby the CRA to have it returned to ARMS. 

"We're going to talk to our MP (Shannon Stubbs) as well,” he said. 

Heather Stocking

About the Author: Heather Stocking

Heather Stocking a reporter at the Athabasca Advocate, a weekly paper in Northern Alberta. Heather covers all aspects of the news in and around Athabasca and Boyle as well as other small communities.
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