In late July 2021, many low-income seniors were surprised to find their GIS benefits for 2021-2022 reduced or eliminated due to their receipt of CERB in 2020, which temporarily raised their incomes and therefore made them ineligible for the full benefit. This left already vulnerable seniors in a much more precarious financial situation. GIS is an important tool to reduce poverty for seniors; recent research from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives makes it clear the public pensions and benefits are especially important in supporting racialized and Indigenous seniors.
ISAC sprang into action in August 2021 and began advocating for a restoration of the GIS to all seniors who had lost the benefit due to receipt of temporary federal pandemic benefits.
Specifically, ISAC and allies called on Ministers Qualtrough, Freeland, and Khera to:
- Exclude CERB and other temporary pandemic benefits from the calculation of income;
- Recalculate the GIS and other income-determined seniors’ benefits for 2020-2021;
- Retroactively return the lost benefits; and,
- Apply the readjusted benefit amount for the duration of the 2021-2022 year.
In December 2021, the federal government proposed $742.4 million in funds in order to provide a one-time lump sum payment for impacted seniors. Read our reaction here.
In early February 2022, Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (Guaranteed Income Supplement), was introduced to the house. It proposed to exclude the Canada Emergency Recovery Benefit (CERB), the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit (CRCB) and Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) from calculation of the GIS starting in June 2022.
On March 3, 2022, Bill C-12 passed without amendment and received royal assent. This was an important victory for low-income seniors who had accessed temporary pandemic benefits and may need to do so again while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
On this date, the funds promised in order to provide seniors with their lump sum back payment were approved, and in mid-March, funds began to be distributed to seniors “in dire need” through a short, poorly publicized process, that was run through MP offices ahead of the wider automatic roll-out through Service Canada.
On April 19, 2022, the broad roll-out of the lump-sum to all impacted seniors began. Clients who faced a reduction or loss of GIS or Allowance benefits from July 2021 onwards due to receiving CRB and CERB in 2020 and did not already receive their lump sum through the “early access” process done quickly through MP offices in mid-March, began to receive the the lump sum either through direct deposit or through mailed out cheques. This official government press release gives further details. Read our reaction and some very important details here.