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Your questions answered: October Edition

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We constantly receive important questions from our members and always do our best to respond quickly and directly.

Recently, we starting inviting people to submit their questions in our monthly newsletter, and their permission to share the answers on our website for the benefit of others.

Here are some recent questions we’ve received from people like you.

Got questions of your own?


Ross (72, Ontario) asks: What Ontario or Federal Department/Agency has the exact legal definitions of the many releases of the Covid-19 pathogens?

Hi Ross,

Thank you for your inquiry. CanAge commends your determination to find out more about COVID-19 in order to inform yourself and keep everyone safe. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies the various variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in this article. As discussed in the article, the WHO works with their networks and partners to monitor and research SARS-CoV-2 around the world, including variants that may be, for example, more transmissible, to help inform and guide public health decision-making. 

CanAge is committed to bringing attention to infection prevention matters while highlighting the need for protective measures. Canadians must try to stay healthy during this time, and therefore additional investment is needed within infection prevention. Older Canadians are significantly under-vaccinated for a range of vaccine preventable diseases such as flu and shingles, leading to poor health outcomes. Vaccine education is needed at a pressing rate. Education is critical in improving health resilience and reducing caseloads in hospitals. If you would like to learn more about CanAge’s advocacy around vaccination and COVID-19, I invite you to review our policy book, VOICES, specifically I: Infection Prevention and Disaster Response.

To access additional resources about COVID-19 vaccination, please visit this resource from the Government of Canada website. If there is anything specific that CanAge can help you with regarding COVID-19 education and vaccine outreach, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you again.

Best regards,

Ayesha


Gary (66, BC) asks: When is the “GIS CLAWBACK” going to change to reflect the current year, 2021? $3500 is a joke!

Hi Gary,

Thank you for reaching out to CanAge with your question. We appreciate you raising an issue important to so many older Canadians: income security.

Your question brings up important questions related to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), a benefit supporting more than 2 million Canadians aged 65+. 

First, the amount of exempt employment income, or how much money older Canadians can earn through work without GIS benefits being impacted, was changed in Budget 2019, raising the amount from $3,500 of exempt annual income to $5,000. Additionally, on the next $10,000 earned, a 50% exemption now applies. That means that if an older Canadian earns $15,000 from working, $5,000 will not impact GIS benefits at all, but for employment income between $5,000 and $15,000 GIS benefits will be reduced by $.50 for every dollar earned. This exemption now applies to both circumstances of employment as well as self-employment. For the complete rules, click here. Additionally, the 2021 Liberal platform promised a GIS increase of $500 for single people and $750 for couples.

Second, we at CanAge know that many older Canadians who rely on the GIS or who were expecting to receive GIS but who also applied for CERB or CRB were negatively impacted. The pandemic relief measures, meant to cushion the economic squeeze caused by the pandemic,  pushed some older Canadians over the income limits for GIS, resulting in clawbacks or unexpectedly not qualifying for the GIS.

As part of our advocacy efforts, CanAge wrote letters to various leaders in the federal government regarding the eligibility for GIS based on pre-CERB tax years (see the full transcript of the letter here). We also endorsed an open letter written by the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC), urging for the return of lost GIS for older adults. Finally, we have created an email/letter template for the public to use, should you want to ask your MP/MLA or government representative to take immediate action on your behalf. 

To learn more about GIS (definition, eligibility, application process, etc.) click here. If you wish to have your GIS benefits recalculated based on your estimated income for the current calendar year, we advise you to contact the Old Age Security call centre at 1-800-277-9914.  Furthermore, if you disagree with the amount you received next year, you can request a reconsideration in writing within 90 days of receiving your decision letter. More information on requesting the reconsideration can be found here. With the increasing attention paid to this issue, we are optimistic there is a chance that pensioners affected by the cutback can have their GIS recalculated.

Best of luck with your advocacy efforts and know that CanAge is advocating for more and better protection around income security for older Canadians alongside you.

Thank you again, 

Ran


Bev (67, Yukon) asks: How can we ensure that housing advocacy includes northern and remote areas along with big cities? We currently do not have a senior facility that is in-between home ownership and long term care. As the cost of a smaller footprint condo is more than the family home we may want to downsize from, we are “Stuck in Place” rather than “Aging in Place”. We need innovative senior-friendly housing options.

Hello Bev,

Thank you so much for reaching out to CanAge with your question. We absolutely agree with the need for more innovative and affordable senior housing across the nation. The disparities between the cost of housing and location is considerable and we understand your frustration surrounding this issue. In our roadmap towards an age-inclusive Canada, VOICES, we address this issue in the section Caregiving, Long-Term Care and Housing Resources under recommendation 94. We acknowledge that affordable and accessible housing options need to be made available to seniors to ensure they have the ability to age in place in locations in which they deem most fitting. During the recent 2021 federal election, CanAge took a prominent stance for the need to fix seniors’ care in order to live safely and with dignity no matter where they reside. We also support the idea of innovative housing models and solutions which may make aging in place options more feasible.

As many people are living longer, there is a need for more affordable housing for seniors, not only in urban cities but also in rural areas. When we consider what this may look like we need to keep in mind that housing is just one piece of the puzzle; we also need services and resources that support individuals aging where they are. While Yukon has released an action plan that outlines these needs, they also state that there are no retirement or assisted living homes within the territory; a major gap in services as you stated. 

CanAge will continue to champion toward better solutions for seniors’ housing that supports aging in place in ways that are effective and attainable for older adults living in Canada, regardless of where they live. If you are hoping to get more involved, may I suggest reaching out to the Yukon Housing Corporation to demonstrate that there is a need for innovative housing solutions in Yukon that allows for older adults to have agency and choice in living solutions that are suitable for them. 

Thank you,

Olivia 


Dianne (71, BC) asks: Does anyone get kicked out of Assisted Living when their money runs out?

Hi Dianne,

Thank you for your question. The threat of eviction from your home can be worrisome and overwhelming.  CanAge would like to offer you a few resources you can use if you or anyone you know is at risk of eviction from their assisted living home because they are unable to pay their housing fees. 

Firstly, we recommend you review your Residency Agreement to see how payment processes work and what happens if you are unable to make a payment.

If you are struggling to pay your assisted living fees on time, Section 6 of British Columbia’s Continuing Care Fees Act states how some or all of a monthly charge for up to one year can be waived if a resident is experiencing a financial hardship. 

It should be noted that a resident who fails to re-establish their need for a hardship waiver must repay all charges that were waived during the time that they did not qualify for the waiver. As well, any unpaid charges (under subsection (4)) are a debt owed by the resident to the health authority and the health authority may take action to recover the debt. Click here to read the full Continuing Care Fees Act. 

Finally, you may want to speak with someone who has expertise in housing and rent-related issues.  SeniorsFirstBC is an organization offering a variety of programs and services, including legal advice about housing. Click here to visit their website and learn more.  As well, the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre may also be helpful for you.  They can review your Residency Agreement with you and figure out if you are at risk for eviction.  They have a tenant info-line, and the phone number for it is 1-800-665-1185.  You can also visit their website here.

CanAge continues to advocate for the needs and rights of seniors across Canada.  You can visit the link on our website here to find out more about how we are advocating for those living in congregate care settings, including assisted living.

 We hope this helps to answer your question, and please feel free to follow-up with us if you have any further concerns.

My kindest regards,

Alicia

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