On August 11th, CanAge wrote to the federal government urging them to consider the eligibility for GIS to be based on pre-CERB tax years to avoid disqualification for the supplement.
Many low income seniors are finding themselves without their GIS after claiming CERB (following the government’s own advice) in the early part of the pandemic.
This is an unfair blow to seniors in already perilous financial circumstances at a time when they need support the most.
Full transcript of our letter follows:
August 11, 2020
The Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
The Honourable Deb Schulte – Minister of Seniors
The Honourable Christia Freeland – Minister of Finance
sent by email
Subject: Eligibility for GIS based on pre-CERB tax years to avoid disqualification for the
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Schulte, and Minister Freeland
We are writing to you on behalf of CanAge, Canada’s national seniors’ advocacy organization. CanAge is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization which educates, empowers, and mobilizes people on the issues that matter most to older Canadians.
It has recently come to our attention that some seniors who received Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) were surprised to find their much needed Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) has been cut, leaving them in financial instability. We are writing to ask that you consider the eligibility for GIS to be based on pre-CERB tax years to avoid disqualification for the supplement.
COVID-19 has negatively impacted all Canadians, but has been especially detrimental to Canada’s seniors. Individuals of lower income have also been disproportionately affected by lockdowns. Seniors who were laid off or became unemployed as a result of COVID-19 were forced to rely on CERB to cover the cost of basic needs such as food and shelter. In relying on CERB, some vulnerable seniors have lost their GIS qualification status.
CERB was encouraged for Canadians to take in order to support their financial well-being. Vulnerable low income seniors should not be punished for accepting the government’s offer of assistance – by now being disqualified for GIS in the coming year. Seniors specifically received very little compensation otherwise – the annual $300 OAS payment and the additional $200 GIS payment has been inadequate to support seniors’ needs – and indeed was announced much later than the CERB.
It is unclear how many people have become ineligible for GIS, although we know that 2.2 million seniors have previously qualified for this supplement. We call for further investigation to understand how many Canadians have been impacted and are no longer entitled to GIS. A recent CTV News article revealed that CERB recipients were processed through two separate agencies based on the nature of their income. Those with uninsurable income were processed through the Canada Revenue Agency and had their relief funds deducted from GIS, while those with insurable income did not. This has resulted in confusion, inequity and financial instability for many seniors.
In the time of COVID-19, it is clear that the needs of Canada’s older adults must be prioritized. We ask that the government of Canada ensures that previous GIS recipients can base their eligibility on pre-CERB tax years so that low income seniors are not penalized and disqualified from GIS.
Laura Tamblyn Watts, LLB
President and CEO, CanAge