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Wednesday , 25 May 2022

Legislation to support low-income seniors who received pandemic benefits receives royal assent

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Government of Canada says it has helped millions of Canadians experiencing financial hardship, including vulnerable and low-income seniors, by providing them with COVID-19-related supports and benefits.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) were intended to support people who lost their job as a result of the pandemic. However, the Government recognizes that some Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and Allowance recipients may face lower benefit payments because of the income they received from pandemic benefits.

That’s why the Government of Canada took action by introducing Bill C-12, which amends the Old Age Security Act to exclude any income received under the CERB, the CRB, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit for the purposes of calculating the amount of GIS and Allowance payable beginning in July 2022.

“Low-income seniors who accessed pandemic benefits were facing significant challenges—and we moved swiftly to rectify the situation,” Minister of Seniors, Kamal Khera said. “We are providing a one-time payment for affected seniors and we worked hard to pass Bill C-12 quickly so seniors won’t face any reduction in their GIS or Allowance benefits going forward. This legislation provides seniors with certainty and peace of mind in knowing that accessing benefits during a crisis will not have a negative effect on their regular benefits. The Government continues to ensure that vulnerable seniors get the support they need.”

Yesterday, on March 3, Bill C-12 received royal assent. Minister of Seniors Kamal Khera marked this important legislative change, as it ensures that low-income seniors will not face a reduction in their GIS or Allowance benefits if they received pandemic benefits in 2021, or if they find they need to access any related benefits in the future.

Seniors are the fastest-growing age group in Canada. By 2030, the number of seniors is expected to reach 9.4 million, representing close to one quarter of Canada’s population. Every year, tens of thousands of seniors have their Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) increased or decreased to reflect changes in their net income. This design ensures the benefits go to the most vulnerable seniors. As GIS benefits are calculated on the basis of the previous year’s income, any change in income in a given year will result in an adjustment of GIS benefits in the following July to June payment period.

Furthermore, as announced in the Economic and Fiscal Update, the Government is providing up to $742.4 million for one-time payments.

The targeted one-time payment will be issued to an estimated 183,000 GIS recipients and 21,000 Allowance recipients who received pandemic benefits in 2020 and who faced a reduction or loss of GIS benefits in July 2021. These payments will be issued by Direct Deposit on April 19, 2022; clients who have not signed up for direct deposit will receive a cheque by mail no later than the end of April 2022 and there is no need to apply. The vast majority (about 98 per cent) of GIS and Allowance recipients are enrolled for Direct Deposit.

Bill C-12 amends the Old Age Security Act to exclude from a person’s income any payment under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act, Part VIII.‍4 of the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Recovery Benefits Act or the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit Act for the purposes of calculating the amount of the GIS and Allowances payable in respect of any month after June 2022.

These payments will alleviate the financial hardship of seniors who qualified and received pandemic benefits in 2020, but who subsequently saw that they counted as income and impacted their GIS or Allowance benefits. This automatic one-time payment will be issued by direct deposit on April 19, 2022. Clients who have not signed up for direct deposit will receive a cheque by mail no later than the end of April 2022. These payments will support those who saw a loss of GIS or Allowance by compensating them for the full annualized amount of that loss.

About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is an award winning journalist and is from Whitbourne Newfoundland. Green graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, River Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner and can fillet a Codfish.