CERB Impact on Guaranteed Income Supplement - Letter addressed to the Minister of Seniors, the Honourable Deb Schulte

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CBSS Sector Community Leadership Council

Community Leadership Council representing the Community-based Seniors Serving Sector in Alberta submitted a letter to the Minister of Seniors, the Honourable Deb Schulte regarding the impact of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) reductions on vulnerable seniors who received Canada Emergency Response Benefits in 2020. Please see the content of the letter below.

We encourage you to contact your MP to raise awareness of the severity of this situation and the negative unintended impact of this process on low-income and vulnerable seniors across the province.  


The Honourable Deb Schulte - Minister of Seniors and Housing

House of Commons - Ottawa, Ontario - Canada K1A 0A6

August 30, 2021

RE: CERB Impact on Guaranteed Income Supplement

Dear Honourable Deb Schulte,

The Community Leadership Council representing the Community-based Seniors Serving (CBSS) Sector in Alberta is gravely concerned about the impact of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) clawback on vulnerable seniors who received Canada Emergency Response Benefits in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBSS organizations from across Alberta are hearing from numerous seniors stating they will no longer receive their full GIS payment due to receiving CERB processed by the Canada Revenue Agency in 2020. Other seniors who received CERB through Service Canada and have been cut off from GIS now have to complete an income estimate form to have their GIS re-instated. Based on the number of calls, and publicly available information about CERB, we are estimating this is impacting 1,000s of Alberta seniors. Both seniors and the CBSS organizations that support them, are unclear on processes and any recourse to address this unexpected impact on GIS.

Many seniors were not aware of the implications when applying for CERB. We strongly believe that this was due to the unclear and confusing communication this population received about the benefits, particularly CERB and the different funding streams. As you know, information on benefits was changing rapidly and there was a high level of anxiety for seniors when they were trying to navigate these resources. Our organizations are hearing from seniors that they were confused regarding the eligibility for CERB, and that media coverage regarding scarcity of items during the pandemic, and heightened anxiety about the future led them to apply for the benefit. Additionally, many of these seniors thought they were eligible for CERB, as they were working part-time before their employment was ended due to the pandemic. We believe that seniors should have been warned during the application process that receiving CERB could put their GIS at risk. This warning would have prevented many applications and this unfortunate situation.

Provincially, it is not yet clear whether these seniors will lose their eligibility for subsidized housing. This decision will be up to individual housing management bodies to determine. If seniors lose access to subsidized housing, the resulting chaos will put extraordinary strain on already stretched social service agencies in the CBSS sector, not to mention the mental and physical harm experienced by individuals who may become homeless at an older age. Further, if social networks and supports collapse, older adults are likely to experience crisis, putting their health at risk and potentially leading to hospitalization and greater public costs.

The Community Leadership Council requests a prompt solution to this concern to ensure that vulnerable, low-income seniors are not forced further into poverty.

We look forward to hearing your response and continuing to work together to address the needs of seniors in Alberta.

Sincerely,

Alberta CBSS Sector Community Leadership Council

 

Cc: Josephine Pon, Minister of Seniors and Housing (Alberta)

CORE Canada

CORE Alberta


Please find below the response received on January 12, 2022:

Dear members of the Community Leadership Council:

On behalf of the Honourable Kamal Khera, Minister of Seniors, I am responding to your letter of August 30, 2021, addressed to her predecessor. You wrote about the impact of emergency response benefits on the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). I regret the delay in replying.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) were intended to support people who lost their job during the pandemic. The Government recognizes that some GIS and Allowance recipients are now facing lower benefit payments this year because of the income they received from these pandemic benefits in 2020.

That is why, as part of the 2021 Economic and Fiscal Update, the Government proposed to provide up to $742.4 million for one-time payments to alleviate the financial hardship of those seniors who qualified to receive the CERB/CRB but who subsequently saw that these pandemic benefits counted as income and impacted their GIS or Allowance benefits. It is anticipated that payments will be issued automatically, without the need for an application, in May 2022.

The Government has implemented several other measures to protect seniors’ financial security during the pandemic, including, in 2020, a one-time tax-free payment of $300 for seniors eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, with an additional tax-free payment of $200 for seniors eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). This measure provided a total of $500 to low-income seniors who receive both the OAS pension and the GIS. Allowance recipients also received $500.

The Government of Canada is committed to moving forward with investments that give Canadian seniors a better quality of life, including stronger financial security. In July 2022, the Government will increase the OAS pension by 10 percent for seniors aged 75 and over. In order to help address the immediate needs of this group of seniors, the Government provided a one-time payment of $500 in August 2021 to OAS pensioners who will be aged 75 and over as of June 30, 2022. This payment was issued during the week of August 16, 2021.

In addition, as part of the 2021 election platform, the Government has committed to increasing the GIS by $500 for single seniors and $750 for couples, starting at age 65. Once final decisions have been made on the timing and the manner in which the Government will implement this commitment, details will be made public.

It is important to note that the OAS program is part of an extensive network of income security programs in Canada. Individuals facing financial hardship can explore the possibility of receiving support from their province or territory of residence.

For further information on programs and services for Canadians of all ages, individuals can visit the Canada Benefits website, which includes a benefits finder function to identify programs, at all levels of government, that are most relevant to an individual’s situation. For more information, visit www.canadabenefits.gc.ca.

I hope that this information is helpful. Thank you for writing.

Yours sincerely,


Kristen Underwood
Director General
Seniors and Pensions Policy Secretariat
Income Security and Social Development Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada

Location Name
Alberta