Federal government announces up to $500 in aid for seniors struggling because of COVID-19

The federal government is announcing new measures today to help seniors struggling financially because of COVID-19.

Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said that seniors who qualify for Old Age Security (OAS) will be eligible for a one-time, tax-free payment of $300, and those eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will get an extra $200.

Those eligible for both will receive $500.

The direct supports will be worth $2.5 billion and are expected to help millions of older Canadians.

Schulte and Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos are holding a news teleconference at 10 a.m. ET to discuss the supports. CBCNews.ca is carrying it live.

Marissa Lennox, chief policy officer at seniors advocacy group CARP, said older Canadians have seen an increased cost of living because of grocery premiums and delivery fees, as well as an increase in prescription medicine fees.

Free or discounted community services such as laundry services, meals at community centres and volunteer tax preparation have also dried up because of the global pandemic. Lennox said many seniors have also seen retirement savings shrink because of a drop in the stock market.

CARP has asked the federal government to waive mandatory registered retirement income fund (RRIF) withdrawals in 2020. CARP says the mandatory withdrawals increase the tax liability for the year as seniors struggle with added costs related to the pandemic.

“Anything that is withdrawn from a RRIF is fully taxable, and in this unpredictable time, seniors are looking to maximize their cash, reduce their tax liability and maximize their flexibility in arranging their affairs,” Lennox said in an email.

CARP has also urged the government to eliminate withholding tax on RRSP withdrawals for the 2020 tax year and allow two years to repay taxes owed.

The group is also asking the government to follow through on an election promise to increase Old Age Security (OAS) and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

During the 2019 campaign, Trudeau said a re-elected government would provide a 10 per cent boost to OAS at age 75 and a 25 per cent increase to the Canada Pension Plan for widows or widowers.

At the time, the Liberal Party said the OAS increase would give Canadians aged 75 and older an extra $729 each year and lift 20,000 seniors out of poverty, while widows or widowers would receive up to $2,080 in additional benefits every year with the increased survivor’s benefit under the CPP and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP).

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