CARP advocacy leads to righting a wrong with the passing of Bill C-12 for our most vulnerable members. However, more must be done to ensure adequate protection for financially vulnerable older Canadians
On March 3, Bill C-12 received royal assent, ensuring Canadians inadvertently negatively impacted by COVID-19 financial supports will now be compensated and future oversights of this nature will not occur. CARP has strenuously advocated for this issue since August 2021, through letters, communications, lobbying and most recently, as a witness to the Senate.
The bill addresses a calamitous oversight in the government’s administration of COVID-19 related financial supports and benefits. The receipt of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), intended as support during COVID, resulted in an estimated 185,000 financially vulnerable older Canadians being unable to access their Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). In some cases, the unexpected lack of funds from the GIS had calamitous results for those struggling to pay rent, afford medication or put food on the table.
Bill C-12 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.
In addition, the Government is providing a one-time payment to alleviate the financial hardship of those 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. Individuals who are in dire need may fast track these funds by contacting their MPS.
Bill VanGorder, Chief Policy Officer of CARP notes that COVID-19 has revealed and exacerbated the existing cracks in our system which put our most vulnerable unnecessarily at risk.
“The current system fails seniors. We can’t just go back to the way we were before COVID and try to do the same things better. We have to aim higher.”
- Boost Old Age Security, or OAS, by 10% for people 65 to 75, not just those over 75;
- Increase the Canada Pension Plan survivor’s pension by 25% for those over 65;
- Drop mandatory withdrawals by eliminating the Registered Retirement Income Fund withdrawals so seniors don’t deplete their nest eggs;
- Protect pension investment with insurance policies that ensure 100% of pension liabilities and make the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments, or OBSI, the single, unified binding resolution body for banking and investments; protect seniors by amending the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act by giving pensioners super-priority status;
- Make GIS more robust by instituting a system like the one that in the U.K. where individuals are not required to fill out their own income tax return. At a minimum, this should apply to low-income wage earners and pensioners;
- Finally, create a more appropriate estimation of the cost of living.