Changes to benefits aimed at rising cost of living
The provincial and federal governments recently made changes to some financial benefits and policies. These changes are aimed at helping people with the increased cost of living. But they fall short of what advocates have been asking for.
Minimum wage increase
On October 1, the minimum wage in Ontario went up. It’s now:
- $15.50 an hour for most jobs, up from $15.00
- $14.60 an hour for students under 18, up from $14.10
- $17.05 an hour for homeworkers, up from $16.50
As of January 1, 2022, liquor servers have been paid the general minimum wage of $15.50 an hour. This went up from $12.55.
There are a few jobs that are not covered by the minimum wage rule or that have special rules about pay. The Ontario government has a guide that lists which jobs have special rules and exemptions.
Read more: How much does my employer have to pay me?
More work hours for study permit holders
The federal government is temporarily removing the limit on how many hours some people with a study permit can work.
From November 15, 2022, to December 31, 2023, someone with a study permit can work off campus for more than 20 hours a week if they:
- are studying full-time, or part-time if it’s their final semester, at a designated learning institution,
- applied for a study permit or extension before October 7, 2022,
- have an off-campus work authorization on their study permit, and,
- arrive in Canada before December 31, 2023.
Currently, the number of hours is limited to 20 in a week.
ODSP rates went up by 5% in September 2022. The ODSP rate for a single person now starts at $1,228 a month. There was no increase to Ontario Works (OW).
The 5% increase does not apply to several other benefits that ODSP recipients often get. This includes the special diet allowance and pregnancy/breast-feeding nutritional allowance.
Special diet allowance not automatically renewed
Special diet allowances that were renewed automatically during COVID-19 will start to expire on December 31, 2022.
This means that people must ask their ODSP worker for a special diet allowance application form. And they should complete and send the form in by December 31.
But it’s best do this as soon as possible to try to avoid a delay in getting the payment. January’s ODSP payments are usually released early, and many people will be sending in their applications around the same time.
Extra GST credit payment
The Canadian government has increased the Goods and Services Tax (GST) credit. People who got a GST credit in October 2022 will get one extra payment starting November 4, 2022.
The amount of the extra payment will be 50% of the person’s yearly GST credit. For example, if someone usually gets $467 a year, they will get an extra $233.50.
People don’t have to apply for the GST credit. But they need to have filed their 2021 tax return.
Lower child-care fees
Families with children under the age of 6 will have their child-care fees reduced by up to 25% if their child-care centre:
- is licensed, and
- decides to take part in the new government program.
This applied starting April 1, 2022. Child-care centres have started to send rebate payments for fees paid since April 1, 2022.
How this affects people on social assistance
When people on OW and ODSP report their income each month, they can deduct some child-care costs from their earnings.
But if they get those child-care costs paid back through the rebate, the amount they deducted in the past is no longer correct. The amount that they deducted needs to change so it does not include the amount of the rebate.
This means that if someone gets a child-care rebate, they need to contact their OW or ODSP worker. Because of the rebate, they may:
- have been paid more than they should from OW or ODSP, and
- owe OW or ODSP money.
This is called an overpayment. Read more in What can I do about an ODSP overpayment?
People can contact their community legal clinic for help if they:
- have an overpayment because of child-care costs, or
- have questions about overpayments.