Important Information about Seniors’ Benefits Reductions Related to Canada Emergency Response Benefits (CERB)

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Low-income seniors who received federal Emergency Response Benefits are seeing their Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) reduced or stopped and could see changes to their eligibility for Government of Alberta seniors’ financial assistance programs due to the increase in their 2020 income, which is used to determine eligibility from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.

We estimate this is impacting thousands of Alberta seniors as CERB was in fact two programs and funding streams portrayed as one for simplicity of communication, though they had different criteria. Unclear communication about the two different emergency response benefit funding streams and the future ramifications of accessing the benefit has put many vulnerable seniors at risk of slipping further into poverty.

Seniors who applied through the Canada Revenue Agency Stream:

  • Received a T4A slip from the CRA.
  • Are NOT eligible for income estimate with GIS unless they or their spouse lost their job or retired in 2020-2021.
  • Are eligible for income estimate with the Government of Alberta for seniors’ financial assistance programs as a one-time consideration.

Seniors who applied through Service Canada Stream or Employment Insurance CERB:

  • Received a T4E slip from Service Canada.
  • Are eligible for an income estimate with GIS.
  • Are eligible for income estimate with the Government of Alberta for seniors’ financial assistance programs as a one-time consideration.

If seniors are unsure about which benefits they received, or if other circumstances have affected their income, they are advised to call a Service Canada representative directly at 1-800-277-9914.

The CBSS Sector Leadership Council is working to advocate with the provincial and federal government to address this issue and emphasize the scale and severity of the situation as thousands of vulnerable seniors stand to be impacted in very negative ways by this bureaucratic process and misalignment of legislation.

You can view the letter submitted by the Community Leadership Council representing the Community-based Seniors Serving Sector in Alberta to the Minister of Seniors HERE.

Seniors should contact their MPs to support the escalation of the severity of this issue and its financial impacts.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

  • Different circumstances can also have an impact including spousal income. 

  • Like employment insurance, GIS is income-tested. That means the previous year's taxable earnings, which includes most emergency benefits, factor into how much the individual is eligible for during the next payment period (entitlements are communicated each July). 

  • GIS benefits threshold for single seniors is $18,984 annually, with a monthly maximum of $936 and $45,504 for couples. 

  • Seniors continue to receive their full old age security and CPP pensions. 

  • Alberta Seniors Benefit and the Special Needs Assistance Program (as well as dental and drug benefits) are not tied to GIS. The Government of Alberta is therefore doing income assessment applications for these benefits. Staffing has been scaled up for a quick turnaround. Seniors connecting with the provincial government for this service should emphasize that they are in dire financial need. Details are available here, under the heading ‘After you apply,’ or by calling the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992, Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

  • For Alberta seniors who received emergency response benefits in 2020 and whose benefits have been reduced:

    • The Alberta Seniors Benefit does not consider approximately 84 cents of each dollar from emergency response programs when determining benefits.
    • Seniors experiencing financial hardship may request a review of their eligibility for seniors’ financial assistance based on an estimate of their 2021 income, as a one-time consideration.
       
  • For Alberta seniors who received emergency response benefits in 2020 and who are ineligible for seniors’ financial assistance programs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022:

    • Seniors who experience a substantial change in income due to the loss of emergency or federal benefits may request Seniors and Housing review their eligibility based on an estimate of their 2021 income, as a one-time consideration.
    • Prior to requesting a review, seniors should consider whether their 2021 estimated total income is expected to be with the following income thresholds: $29,285 for a single senior; $47,545 for a senior couple.

SUPPORTS AVAILABLE FOR SENIORS

  • Everyone's situation is unique and therefore seniors are highly encouraged to call an Old Age Security (OAS) / GIS representative directly to discuss their situation. The phone number is 1-800-277-9914.

  • Alberta Seniors Financial Assistance programs: the Alberta Seniors Benefit (ASB), Special Needs Assistance for Seniors, Seniors Home Adaptation and Repair Program, and Dental and Optical Assistance for Seniors programs will review an estimate of 2021 income for any senior who received CERB in 2020, as long as a T-slip confirming receipt of CERB is provided. The income reported on the 2021 income estimate must fall under the ASB thresholds ($29,285 for single seniors and $47,545 for senior couples). Seniors (including their spouse, if applicable) will need to complete, sign and return their 2021 Income Estimate Form with a copy of their T4A or T4E slip confirming receipt of ERB in 2020. 

  • Social Housing (self-contained seniors housing and the rent supplement programs) do allow income estimates in the legislation that governs their practice. Management bodies have been reminded by the Government of Alberta that they should be adjusting people’s incomes. This does not apply to lodges, unfortunately.  

  • For seniors who own their own homes, they may qualify for the Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program. The average loan is $3,600 for this program. 


Every individual case is different, so please contact Service Canada by calling 1-800-277-9914 to assess your unique situation.

Visit the CRA contact information webpage for service hours and wait times.

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