(Here is an open letter from Réseau FADOQ President, Gisèle Tassé-Goodman)
Some of the least affluent seniors in the country have lost a sizable chunk or even all of their Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) without warning. Seniors who received $10,000 from the Canada Emergency Benefit (CERB), for example, saw their GIS shrink by over $400 per month. It’s a tragedy that only increases the number of seniors in a precarious financial situation.
For a reason that has never been explained to date, the federal government did not consider emergency benefits as working income in the calculation of the GIS, which is illogical since they replaced it. According to a Consumers Union estimate, a senior who reported $10,000 in employment income would see his or her GIS reduced by $104 per month. For the same amount from the CERB, the GIS is cut by $417 per month.
Réseau FADOQ is asking that all seniors who have had their Guaranteed Income Supplement cut off due to emergency benefits be eligible for a recalculation of the GIS based on the current year’s estimated income instead of the previous year’s.
The option to recalculate the GIS based on projected 2021 earnings is currently available to seniors who received their emergency benefits from Service Canada. It should be extended to seniors who received their benefits through the Canada Revenue Agency.
Ottawa must also rectify the situation and consider emergency benefits as work income for the purpose of calculating the GIS. For seniors who have not received the maximum amount of emergency benefits, Ottawa must give them the option to recalculate their GIS with the same exemptions as for employment income.
The Trudeau government must act as soon as it returns to the House of Commons next Monday because the situation is impoverishing thousands of seniors who rely on this monthly payment to meet their basic needs.
Ottawa must contact these seniors as soon as possible to correct its mistake. They must not be left alone to fend for themselves. The recalculation request form must be provided to them electronically or by mail.
The federal government also needs to accelerate the processing of applications. Seniors have to wait between 150 and 180 days for their form to be analyzed. It is unacceptable that they have to go through months of worry and uncertainty because they are forced to support themselves with several hundred dollars a month less in their pockets.
Many of our members are in this situation and now have to make difficult decisions because of this loss of income. It is unconscionable that low-income seniors are once again being hurt by government bureaucracy.
The government must find a solution quickly so that these seniors can stop being disrupted by this huge loss of income that they could never have anticipated.