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:
Seniors who applied through Service Canada Stream or Employment Insurance CERB:
If seniors are unsure about which benefits they received, or if other circumstances have affected their income, they are advised to call a Canada Revenue Agency representative directly at 1-800-277-9914.
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:
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:
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 the Canada Revenue Agency by calling 1-800-277-9914 to assess your unique situation.
Visit the CRA contact information webpage for service hours and wait times.