By Michael Van Cooten
OTTAWA, Ontario May 12, 2020 — Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced, this morning, additional measures, aimed at helping Canadian seniors, and providing them with greater financial security, in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic “crisis”.
The government will allocate $2.5 billion for a one-time, tax-free payment of $300 for seniors, eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension; with an additional $200 for seniors, eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) stated in a press release, noting “This measure would give a total of $500 to individuals, who are eligible to receive, both the OAS and the GIS, and will help them cover increased costs caused by COVID-19.”
The PMO said the government will also expand the New Horizons for Seniors Program, with an additional investment of $20 million, “to support organizations that offer community-based projects that reduce isolation, improve the quality of life of seniors, and help them maintain a social support network”.
Lastly, the release informed that GIS and Allowance payments will be temporarily extended, if seniors’ 2019 income information has not been assessed, adding “This will ensure that the most vulnerable seniors continue to receive their benefits, when they need them the most.
“To avoid an interruption in benefits, seniors are encouraged to submit their 2019 income information as soon as possible and no later than by October 1, 2020.”
There are currently 6.7 million seniors, who are eligible for the OAS pension; and 2.2 million, who are eligible for the GIS.
“As workers, neighbours, parents, grandparents, spouses, caregivers, and volunteers, Canada’s seniors have shaped this country and contribute to our communities every day,” commented Prime Minister Trudeau.
“They are among the most-threatened by COVID-19, and we will support them and work to keep them safe.”
No Canadian should have to choose, between putting food on the table, filling their prescriptions, or paying their bills; yet too many seniors are facing significant health, economic, and social challenges, due to COVID-19, the PMO release stressed, pointing out that “They helped shape this country, and now they need our help.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian government has introduced a variety of measures to support the nation’s senior citizens.
“We invested $1.3 billion in a one-time special payment, through the Goods and Services Tax (GST) credit in April. More than 4 million seniors benefited from this top-up, which gave an average of $375 for single seniors and $510 for senior couples,” the release added.
“We also invested in community organizations that provide practical services to Canadian seniors, including the delivery of groceries and medications.”
Additional coronavirus-related measures, introduced by the government, include:
- Providing a one-time special payment, through the GST credit, for low- and modest-income families. Close to 85 percent of single seniors and almost half of senior couples benefited from this payment.
- Providing flexibility to seniors, through their Registered Retirement Income Funds, by reducing minimum withdrawals by 25 percent for 2020. This will help preserve assets during a volatile market.
- Contributing $9 million, through United Way Centraide Canada, for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors. These services could include the delivery of groceries, medications, or other needed items, or personal outreach to assess individuals’ needs and connect them to community supports.
- Investing $100 million to improve access to food for Canadians, including seniors, facing social, economic, and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Creating a $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund to support charities and non-profit organizations to adapt the services they provide to vulnerable groups, including seniors, in response to COVID-19.
- Introducing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a taxable benefit of $2,000 every 4 weeks, for up to 16 weeks, to eligible workers, including seniors, who have lost their income, due to COVID-19. Pension income does not affect eligibility to the CERB.
The government also extended the eligibility of this benefit to individuals, who earn up to $1,000 per month, as well as workers, who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.
Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, contended, “Protecting the most vulnerable remains at the core of our response to COVID-19, and seniors are particularly feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it be vulnerability, due to physical or mental health, isolation, or simply struggling to get groceries and the supports they need, the measures announced, today, will help seniors during this difficult period.”
The government of Canada says, it will continue to monitor and respond to the health, social, and economic impacts of COVID-19, assuring the public, “We stand ready to take additional actions, as needed, to support all Canadians, including seniors, and stabilize the economy.”