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Some social assistance recipients qualify for CERB payments

Photo CTV

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – People who are receiving income assistance (IA) benefits and meet the program conditions can apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and will keep the full $2000 monthly payment.

“If an IA client transitions to the CERB, we’ll ensure they maintain their Pharmacare benefits (and bus pass, if applicable) for the duration of CERB,” writes Lynette MacLeod, a spokesperson for the Department of Community Services in an email to the Nova Scotia Advocate.

In essence they are no longer social assistance recipients for the 16 weeks the CERB payments are received because their income exceeds the income assistance threshold.

“When CERB ends or their situation changes, we’ll ensure a smooth transition back onto IA for those clients who need it. And we’ll ensure no clients will see a decrease in their benefit when they transition back onto IA from the CERB,” MacLeod writes.

It is believed that around 10% of people on social assistance receive some income from employment. They are allowed to keep a portion of their earnings, the remainder is clawed back by Community Services.

Not everybody who was employed will qualify for CERB. You must have earned at least $5000 in the last 12 months, and have lost your job for reasons directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Quitting a job voluntarily doesn’t count.

For the people fortunate enough to qualify this is excellent news. The Standard Household Rate for a single person with disabilities is $850 per month, somebody who is able bodied receives between $508 and $586.

The approach by the department does not align with recommendations from the federal government, which funds the CERB program.

“Our government believes the CERB needs to be considered exempt by provinces and territories in the same way as the Canada Child Benefit to ensure vulnerable Canadians do not fall behind,” reports The Star, quoting a spokesperson for the federal minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. 

In this scenario, apparently being followed in Ontario, people would receive the CERB payments on top of their income assistance rates.

Anxiety and confusion precedes announcement

It appears that people who potentially qualify for CERB started receiving calls from caseworkers over the last week who told them to apply for CERB. But they were not told whether the benefit would be clawed back partially or even entirely, or what would happen when the CERB ends.

This, understandably, caused a lot of anxiety in the community, fellow NS Advocate reporter Kendall Worth reports.

When people got those recent phone calls from their caseworkers, they asked their caseworkers if this is going to be clawed-back from their income assistance. Their caseworkers are telling them, “We do not know whether that is going to be clawed back or not but you are required to apply for that regardless.”

People are also concerned about how to apply for CERB, says Worth.

Many of the advocates and social workers who in more normal times provide support for these kinds of things are not around, or are not meeting in person because of social distancing rules, he says.

As well, how to apply without a phone, and with no access to public library computers is a real problem for some of the people Kendall Worth has spoken with.

“Let’s  say you have a friend or relative who has internet at their home and under normal circumstances they let you come over to use it, but not now,” says Worth.

“The Federal Government has a 1-800 number people can call. The problem is several income assistance recipients I talked to tell me they are nervous about calling that number without the people who would normally be their professional advocate present while on that call,” writes Worth. “Also, some Income assistance recipients have cell phones that will not allow you to call 1-800 numbers. A few of them told me this.”

Use departmental savings to boost income assistance rates

With possibly between 5% and 10% fewer recipients receiving benefits for the next months Community Services is bound to save money.

So far people on income assistance, the poorest of the poor, have only received a one-time $50 to deal with the many new needs created by the pandemic, from the need for extra cleaning and hygiene products to the extra costs due to self distancing and quarantines.  

See also: During the pandemic Nova Scotians on social assistance are on their own

Advocates have been asking for an increase in the rates along the lines of what is happening in British Columbia, where people will be receiving an additional $300 monthly in recognition of these extra costs. 

Knowing that the department will be saving money because of the CERB program further strengthens their case.

For more on this: CERB rules leave income assistance recipients confused and worried

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  1. Things are even worse for certain individuals on disability and married.

    I have a friend who works in social assistance, and there are common law specific scenarios, like when a partner who earns money, enough to qualify for CERB, and the other relies on medical benefits to make ends meet.

    When the one person gets their CERB, the IA stops, and so does benefits, making it less convenient to be on CERB than on IA. Some medical expenses can cost upwards of $500.00 per month.

    This often resembles a punishment, then helping them.

    However, if the benefits will remain like the article says, then that could at least make it equal to current IA.

    Except that CERB is taxable, and is GROSS incone, not NET income. Would individuals need to subtract the tax first before reporting it? And what happens if the rules change in a few months from CERB needing to be clawed back to say, becoming exempt? Too many questions, so much confusion.

    I personally like the idea of everyone who applies for CERB gets it, then the CRA checks the total income for the 2020 tax year. If that individuals income, or the household income is under the poverty line, then they won’t need to pay it back. Or perhaps some other standardized value. Either way, problem solved.

    1. Please vote on the Basic Universal income. This is for everyone! This Country has enough money to support a basic income program and we need to improve our overall quality of life in this Country but especially the provinces that fall below poverty lines! Please vote! We already pay some of the highest taxes whats a little more to improve everyones quality of life?

    1. Exactly! Why not Canada disability pension recipients as well? Why not everyone! We’re all supposed to be in this together! I’m single and on disability…I get nothing as with sooo many others like myself 😔🤬😷🤷🏼‍♀️

  2. What about those of us on Canada PensIon Disability, many if us receive $1000 or less per month. With Pharmacare taking their deductible this month we have been left in dire straits. No one is watching out for us.

    1. That,s so true no one is watching out fore us.trudeo says we are all in this together ,it doesen,t feel like it one bit.

      1. Betty you don’t mind called PM Trudeau names but you step right up to get any funds he may be giving out! You would received dick all from the conservatives !

        1. In her comment, Betty has not called Trudeau any names, nor has she stated that she has claimed any pandemic monetary benefits.

  3. Well that’s not fair to those who are receiving current E I who are not entitled to anything …Why is this ? And old age and Canada pension …but mostly those who are receiving current EI ….they should be entitled !!!!!….someone I know can’t work because of this monster so therefore has to use their current EI ….Explain that one please !!!!!

    1. Im on regular ei and i do not qualify and not maki g half as much as they are for this cerb. Plus right now im unable to go to work because of my bronchial asthmas and copd. Its makes it tough raising teens and trying to pay bills on only 649 every 2 weeks. . They should make it available to all. We all are affected by this. Singling out people just isnt right and at the end if determing then who shoukd have to pay if not everyone or certian ones. An od like to know as well why isnthat diabled people are always the ones being left out. They should be right on top of the list. But they never are . It think its pretty unfair that assistance recipeients are always included but not disability people.

    2. Us on disability are the hardest hit and least concidered,, I been down 2 years with a rare bone desiese was on $600 a month IA, got pension of $1165, they stopped my cpp, and now want back a year of IA, I can’t go out to get food, I have immune issues, if I didn’t have a kid I love, I’d prob just say F it, Canada, I worked hard and paid hundreds of thousands in tax, when I fell you have now run me over, so shut up with no one left behind, it’s enough of an insult living on 300 a week, and not able to eat 5 or 6 days a month, and can’t do laundry

  4. What about people on ei ?? I myself only get 5 something every two weeks and it’s still not enough

  5. So people on social assistance that called in for the CERB payments . I was just wondering if it effects your assistance

  6. I saw this am where people on assistance are getting the money. I am not only a senior but also disabled. I applied for it so will see what happens. If they can get it i need it

    1. It is not for all people on social assistance, CERB is a program for people who lost their employment because of the pandemic. I very much agree seniors and people who live with disabilities also need supports.

  7. What about the disabled on CPPD who only get around $600 a month! Or the low income senior who only gets $1300 total Cpp/Oas ? We paid into the system for years! We don’t get free medical!
    We pay co-pay on meds, all non prescription meds , medical equipment travel to the city for specialists ,private personal care, Morgage, house taxes, house insurance electric, telephone ,car payments ,insurance . And now higher online food costs, delivery fees, med despensing fees. Are we invisible or does the government just want us to be!

  8. Dear Government: We get your message loud and clear: people with disabilities have no value, contribute nothing to the economy, and are only a financial burden, and therefore, will continue to slowly starve to death on the regular income assistance rates for those with a disability.


  9. I live in Quebec. I’m single with no kids and on welfare trying to survive with my big 690$ a month welfare money and with the help of food banks before the pandemic started. Food banks are closed and i was only eligible for a one time 290$ a full year value of my GST i got April 9. This 290$ GST money is supposed to last me the full time of this crisis…..All i know is that prices for the basics keep going up and i’m guessing by July i won’t have any of that 290$ GST money left and i doubt food banks in my area will be open by then and i will end up in jail for stealing food.

  10. I’ve got a petition going to increase NS Income Assistance rates to try and help people who are already earning way below the standard cost of living and average rent get through this even more difficult time. Here’s the link: http://chng.it/Cq79zpsK
    Please sign and share!

  11. I am on social assistance for a disability in Nova Scotia, and was told $508 was their maximum. It’s what I have been getting for a while, now.

    1. Whoa! That amount is not for someone who is unemployable for reason of disability. That’s the amount for a person who is able to work and is activity seeking employment. If a doctor filled out that blue medical form and said you were unable to work due to medical, physical, or mental issues, you get a minimum of $850 and may qualify for special needs amounts. I don’t know if you are going to read this comment but someone needs to help you! Something is very wrong here.

  12. I don’t think it’s right not to look at people with cpptrying to surviveoff survives allowance

  13. i am on disability from social assistance i got a paper in my check telling me i am required to apply for CERB ,but i am afraid to ,i am not sure how it works ,but things here in stores got so expensive,i can’t buy a piece of meat or even get my prescriptions now,they say if you apply and realize your not suppose to get it,you need to pay it back,there seems to be a lot of confusion.it also says if you recieved it on ,my paper says,if you are eligible for CERB ,you maybe required to pay back income assistance for periods CERB was paid,ifyou were el eligible for income assistance beforemarch 15,2020,and become eligible because you recieved CERB ,i dont get this wording at all.

    1. Again, someone else who probably won’t see my reply but I’ll leave it anyway. Firstly, you have Pharmacare which pays the full cost of your meds. You don’t even have a co-pay so why can’t you get your prescriptions? Yes, we all got the notice (just like those who don’t have kids get the yearly notice about money for school supplies) but it only applies to those who are working part-time while receiving income assistance (ESIA) and only those who lost their extra income as a direct result of the pandemic will get it. If you are on ESIA for reasons of disability and do not work at all, you are not eligible.

      1. Dear Ms. Lewis,
        First, with regard to the issue of prescriptions while in receipt of income assistance, It is not always so that the full cost is covered if one is in receipt of IA. Even if a Rx is listed in/on the Nova Scotia Formulary (sp?), it may not be covered, or there may be some sort of a co-pay. Which can be a barrier for someone on welfare. I know this to be so as recently as last week, and from bitter previous experience. Secondly, with regard to the CERB notice to which Ms. Rae referred, the key lies in her final sentence. The way that it is written has confused her–thank you for clarifying that for her (and possibly for others.) I hold a Master’s degree, and I find that, about three quarters of the time, I have to double or triple check policies, notices, etc, from the Department of Community Services, or others government sources in this sort of context. And there has been much confusion surrounding the CERB. Doubtless, those who craft these things do their best, but they’re used to thinking in what might be term bureaucratic terms, and we are also in the midst of what has been called “unprecedented times,” when information seems to change by the day, if not by the hour.

        1. Argh. I wish this site would notify us of replies to our comments as you probably won’t read this…Even if she has prescriptions that are not on the “list”, ESIA will pay for these as a special needs. I needed a prescription med that was not covered by Pharmacare so I got a letter from my doctor and sent them the receipt showing the cost, and they reimbursed me and paid for the subsequent refills with a purchase order to the pharmacy. ESIA will even pay for non-prescription meds with a doctor’s letter, such as vitamins. I know because I get over a hundred dollars added onto my cheque for supplements. (I have a lot of health problems.)

    2. I been applying for it as well I think every Canadian should be allowed to call them and get the help they need but people on income assistance don’t matter since we are on the last of the chain we don’t matter I mean if we made money and lost our jobs to this virus then we would eqailfy but we don’t cause we are just to poor they should help all Canadiens not certain ones the number to call is 1-800-959-2041 just keep pressing one it’s about time they help all Canadiens not just certain ones they prefer it just sickens me

  14. A personal care attendant working four hours a day making $350 a week before taxes and I don’t qualify

    1. You don’t qualify because you are still employed. It’s for people who lost their job due to the pandemic. However, your income, like those on income assistance, is below what CERB pays so this is just another example of why we need a universal basic income. And don’t think those on Income assistance are suddenly hitting it rich. It’s temporary and they may have to pay some back and they have to pay taxes on it. They are terrified just to be forced, yes, forced, to apply for it.

      1. Indeed, Ms. Lewis, thank you for your “nail-on-the-head” reply. I know a few individuals who are on welfare who are indeed terrified to apply. The situation is not helped by the fact that the wording of the notice received by recipients about the CERB is subtly different from the assurances that have been previously publicly offered.

  15. Disabled and get $638 per month CPPD. Just sayin’ Had a great career before getting ill. Live in Nova Scotia.

  16. Does anyone know what the concequences there will be for people that applied over the phone with 2 teenagers arguing and wasn’t able to clearly hear the questions but was told by other people in my situation that they applied and then got excepted .and recieved alot of money .but shortly after I Was able to access Internet and now I’m seeing that I may not even be eligible .I need the money but can’t have my only steady means of income interupted or I would never get back on track, where right now I have my rent paid direct .Will I be responsible to pay rent or will my monthly assistant be allowed to just leave me without a income after the pandemic ends .I am so torn.I feel like I need the money so I should just use it but I’m also very concerned about the long term concequences that I may or may not get. I feel like I need clarification ASAP.My ADHD is not helping right now !

    1. You only apply if you lost your job because of the Covid-19 pandemic. If, while receiving ESIA, you never had a job or still have a job or lost it for any other reason besides the pandemic, you are not eligible. CERB is not social assistance or a substitute for it. It is a federal, not provincial, payment specifically to help people who have lost their income due to the pandemic. The province of Nova Scotia is taking advantage of that by forcing ESIA recipients to apply because if they get it, the unethical scrooges can save a few bucks off their already woefully inadequate income assistance budget.

      If you are receiving provincial income assistance, you have a caseworker. Call your caseworker.

  17. Ia and disabled people have no rights when it comes to the government they say they help dut in my household and others their is the same problem Not Enough Money Too Live On who is going to help us…..

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