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Tue., Feb. 22, 2022
Low-income seniors desperate for compensation after suffering clawbacks to their Guaranteed Income Supplement by Ottawa are finally getting help, North Island MP Rachel Blaney said on Monday.
Seniors who had their GIS cut six months ago after collecting COVID-19 relief benefits will get a one-time payment as early as April 19, with emergency funds available to those in dire circumstances as early as March, said Minister of Seniors Kamal Khera.
Ottawa had previously slated the payments for May.
Khera announced the expedited payments in response to Blaney, the NDP critic for seniors, who was repeating a call for urgent action by the federal government in the House of Commons.
For almost six months, the NDP has been calling on the government to fix its mistake that cost some of the country’s poorest seniors the GIS help they count on to pay for food, rent and medicine, Blaney said.
“Seniors can finally breathe a sigh of relief after going through a horrible, unnecessary ordeal,” Blaney said.
“For months, I have been hearing the most heartbreaking stories from vulnerable seniors who felt abandoned by this government.”
The supplement is a monthly non-taxable top-up for Old Age Security pension recipients who have a low income and are living in Canada.
Seniors working part-time as a measure to boost their income allowable under the GIS thresholds applied for relief such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) when they lost their jobs, according to NDP.
But seniors were only offered the option of taking the full $2,000 a month available to applicants, which then temporarily changed their annual income thresholds used to calculate their GIS payments, resulting in the clawbacks.
Pandemic benefits were to prevent evictions and keep food on the table during the crisis, not simply push those threats further into the future, NDP finance critic Daniel Blaikie told the government in August.
“It’s been a long wait for many seniors who have been hungry, missed medication or faced eviction,” said Blaikie on Monday.
“It’s about time the government is showing a sense of urgency to this problem of their own making.”
In December, Ottawa announced it was allocating $742.4 million to alleviate the financial hardship faced by seniors who qualified and received pandemic benefits in 2020.
Khera’s announcement followed her introduction of a bill last week to rectify the situation and prevent clawbacks in the future.
“Low-income seniors should not be penalized for accessing income support they needed during the pandemic crisis,” Khera said, adding further details would be outlined soon.
Seniors affected by the cuts will not have to apply for the compensation; they’ll get the payment the same way they receive GIS payments.
The Liberals are also moving ahead with a plan to boost the OAS pension by 10 per cent for seniors aged 75 and up in July
Blaney, the NDP, and seniors and poverty advocates have been pushing the Liberals the past six months to rectify the problem for 183,000 seniors who lost, or had their GIS reduced.