B.C. government introduces changes to social assistance legislation

Seniors to benefit

Seniors benefiting from income and disability assistance will no longer need to pursue early Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits if they are younger than 65.

The removal by the provincial government of the early Canada Pension Plan requirement is one of a number of changes to the Employment and Assistance Act, and the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act and regulations, which came into effect on January 1 this year.

The changes, implemented by the provincial Social Development and Poverty Reduction ministry, include:

Updating the definition of a dependent child:

The new definition allows a child to access the full range of benefits and supports available to them, even if only one of their separated parents is on income or disability assistance.

This will better support families on assistance by addressing current gaps in shared parenting situations.

Updating the definition of a spouse:

This will modernize the ministry’s definition of a spouse to better support people entering and leaving relationships by:

* increasing the amount of time two people can live together before reducing their assistance to the lower couples’ rate; and

* providing the singles’ assistance rate to two married people who have separated but not yet divorced, and are living in the same residence independently.

Streamlining the assistance reapplication process:

The streamlined reapplication period will increase from three to six months for people who need to return to assistance. The updated timeframe will support people with more timely access to the income and disability supports that they need.

Removing the two-year financial independence rule:

Removing the two-year waiting period will better support vulnerable young adults in need of immediate access to income supports and benefits.

Information and verification requirements (Section 10):

People who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness will no longer automatically be removed from assistance if they are unable to provide documentation – they will instead have to pay $25 per month until they are able to do so.

Supplements for rent and pet deposits:

This will prevent homelessness by removing the limit on the number of rental security deposits and creating a new pet security deposit so that people can find and maintain housing.

Crisis supplements for shelter:

Crisis shelter supplements will be increased, which will help with unexpected shelter costs by providing the full monthly amount of support and shelter for a family.

Creating a maximum repayment of debt:

This will ensure any repayment of debt people on assistance make is not more than the minimum repayment amount, unless they request to pay more, and ensuring that only one ministry debt is recovered at a time.

Support for hardship assistance:

This will provide people on hardship assistance with more supports while they work to establish their eligibility for income and disability assistance. People receiving hardship assistance now have access to supplements that are available to people on income and disability assistance.

The expanded supports will help people address their health needs and, to help keep people safe, they will not be required to repay supports in situations of domestic violence and treatment in special care facilities.

My Self Serve:

My Self Serve (MySS) provides online access to income and disability assistance for B.C. residents, whether they are currently receiving assistance or would like to apply.

My Self Serve will guide you through the Application for Assistance.

However, if you need help with your application, contact the ministry at 1-866-866-0800.

If you are currently in receipt of income or disability assistance, My Self Serve will allow you to securely access your current information online.

Recipients can view personal messages from the ministry, submit monthly reports and upload forms.

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