Income assistance is the welfare program in BC. It provides financial support for low income or no income individuals.  Whether you qualify or not is based on your income and assets as well as your family status (single / children etc) .  Any money you receive from other sources may affect whether you qualify and how much you will receive.

The Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation has three income assistance programs:

1. Income Assistance (IA - regular income assistance for people who are employable.  In most cases you are required to do job search)

2. Person with Persistent Multiple Barriers (PPMB)

3.  Person with Disability (PWD)

(Check out the Income Assistance Status Summary Sheet on our Resources page for more information)

To apply, you must first fill out the online self serve application which consists of about 90 questions.

If you plan to apply for PWD, when completing the online income assistance application, you must check the "YES" box when you come to the question that asks if you plan to apply for PWD.

If you are new to Income Assistance, PPMB will not be available to you, as you must have been on assistance for 12 out of the last 15 months to be eligible.

 

 

Your eligibility for income assistance (IA) is based on your income, your assets and family status.

If you are currently earning more than the IA benefit rate that applies to your family status (eg single) it is unlikely that you will be eligible for IA.

For example

If you are single (between 19-64 years) your base income assistance benefit rate is $610 per month.

Check out the Income Assistance Benefit Rate chart  to find out details about your specific situation

Once you are approved for income assistance, your benefit rate or how much you will receive depends on your family situation (ie. whether you are single, married / common law or have children) and your age.

The income assistance benefit includes a portion of money for shelter and a portion of money for support (daily living necessities).  In order to receive the shelter portion, you must have an address and be paying shelter costs.

E.g. If you are a single person between the ages of 19-64, the benefit rate would be $610
($375 shelter portion + 235 support portion)

Check out our Income Assistance Benefit Rate Chart on our Resource Page for more details on your specific situation.

Aside from financial support, you will also receive:

  • Premium-free medical services plan coverage
  • No-deductible PharmaCare prescription coverage

Depending on your circumstances, you may also get other expenses covered. If you have children, you’ll keep basic health coverage. This includes premium-free medical services plan and 100 per cent coverage under PharmaCare for a full year after you leave income assistance for employment.

 

You can get helped right away if you’re in immediate need. This means you have run out, or will run out of your medication within the next day or two without the means to get more, you have no food, you are about to get evicted or are currently homeless. If you are fleeing abuse, it is also considered immediate need. When you apply for assistance, if one of the above things is occurring, be sure to let the Ministry know.

Yes, but how much you get to keep depends on you status with the Ministry, and whether you are single or have dependants.

For example, if you are a single person on employable income assistance, you can keep the first $200.00 you earn. If you are Person with Persistent Multiple Barriers (PPMB) status, the amount increases to $500.00 a month earning exemption.

See our IA status summary sheet on our Resources page to see your earning exemptions.

Yes, you can earn some money while you are on income assistance, but there are limits to how much income you can earn (called "earned income").  The earned income limit is $200 per month (regardless of on the size of your family unit)

When you earn more than $200, your income assistance payment will be reduced by the amount your earnings exceed $200.                                                                                                                                                                                (eg. your regular IA payment is $610.00.  This month you earn $300.00 so your IA payment will be reduced by $100  to $510 as you earned $100 over the $200 monthly earnings limit)

It is important to understand the difference between "earned income" and "unearned income" when applying for or receiving income assistance.

 

Earned income, is income that is classified as any of the following:

• any money you receive for working
• pension plan contributions that are refunded because of insufficient contributions to qualify for  a    pension
• money  received from providing room and board at your residence
• money  received from renting rooms at your residence

Unearned income, is any income that is not earned income.  Some types of unearned income include:

• money, annuities, stocks, bonds, shares, and interest-bearing accounts or properties
• tax refund
• Employment Insurance
• Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payments
• superannuation benefits
• any type or class of Canada Pension Plan benefits

• war disability pensions, military pensions, and war veterans’ allowances
• insurance benefits, except insurance paid as compensation for a destroyed asset
• workers’ compensation benefits and disability payments or pensions
• widows’ or orphans’ allowances
• a trust or inheritance
• rental of tools, vehicles, or equipment
• rental of land, self-contained suites, or other property except the applicant or recipient's place of residence
• interest earned on a mortgage or agreement for sale
• maintenance under a court order, separation agreement, or other agreement
• education or training allowances, grants, loans, bursaries, or scholarships
• a lottery or a game of chance

for more details about income types and exemptions click here

Personal Items:

  • clothing and necessary household equipment
  • one motor vehicle where the equity does not exceed $10,000 and the vehicle is generally used for day-to-day transportation needs   Note: There is no limit on the value of a vehicle owned by applicants and recipients with the PWD designation.
  • a family unit’s place of residence (*you must live in the home for it to be exempt).
  • money received or to be received from a mortgage on, or an agreement for sale of, the family unit’s previous place of residence if the money is either:
    • applied to the amount owing on the family unit’s current place of residence
    • used to pay rent for the family unit’s current place of residence
  • an uncashed life insurance policy with a cash surrender value of $1,500 or less
  • prepaid funeral costs

Employment/Work Related:

  • business tools, seed required by a farmer for the next crop year, basic breeding stock held by a farmer at the date of application for income assistance, and female stock held for stock replacement, essential equipment and supplies for farming and commercial fishing, fishing craft and fishing gear owned and used by a commercial fisher
  • assets exempt under the Self-Employment Program, assets held in asset development accounts;

Tax & Tax Credit Related Exemptions

  • a tax refund; a refundable medical expense supplement,  a working income tax benefit; including a disability supplement; a quarterly Climate Action Tax Credit and the one-time Climate Action Dividend under the Income Tax Act (Canada).
  • a child tax credit, a child tax benefit under the Income Tax Act (Canada)
  • a Universal Child Care Benefit under the Universal Child Care Benefit Act (Canada) & a BC Early Childhood Tax Benefit
  • a goods and services tax credit; harmonized sales tax credit; a sales tax credit the Income Tax Act (Canada)

Settlement Related:

  • Settlements for persons of Japanese ancestry, HIV, thalidomide victims, abuse at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf, Hepatitis C Settlement, an income tax refund received under the Forest Worker Transition Program, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Class Action Settlement, abuse at Woodlands School; money paid or payable from a fund from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

Exemptions Related to Compensation

  • a retroactive compensation awards under, including interest for pain and suffering, made under the Criminal Injury Compensation Act, for claimants who were minor victims of assault and who registered their claim from 1980 to 1992 in which these compensation decisions were deferred.
  • eviction compensation payments are considered exempt up to the asset level of the family unit funds held in, or money withdrawn from, a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)

Child Related Exemptions

  • post-adoption assistance payments provided under the Adoption Regulation (BC);
  • payments for Interim Early Intensive Intervention Funding; payments for the At Home Program, a travel supplement provided under the authority of Community Living British Columbia (CLBC), individual payments dispersed from the BC Institutional Legacy Trust Fund; payments granted by the government of BC under the Temporary Education Support for Parents program
  • payments under section 8 of the Child, Family and Community Services Act, Agreement with child’s kin and others, payments granted by the Government of BC for contributions to the support of a child to a person other than a parent of that child,
  • funds held in a registered education savings plan (RESP) a dependent child;

Other Special Exemptions:

  • assets held in trust for persons in special care facility or for persons with the PWD designation

Effective: April 1, 2015

 

Check out the Categorized Asset Exemptions for Income Assistance or Disability Assistance Recipients on our Resources page for more information

 

Earned income, is income that is classified as any of the following:

• any money received for working
• pension plan contributions that are refunded because of insufficient contributions to qualify for a pension
• money  received from providing room and board at your residence
• money  received from renting rooms at your residence

Unearned income, is any income that is not earned income.  Some types of unearned income include:

• money, annuities, stocks, bonds, shares, and interest-bearing accounts or properties
• tax refund
• Employment Insurance
• Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payments
• superannuation benefits
• any type or class of Canada Pension Plan benefits

• war disability pensions, military pensions, and war veterans’ allowances
• insurance benefits, except insurance paid as compensation for a destroyed asset
• workers’ compensation benefits and disability payments or pensions
• widows’ or orphans’ allowances
• a trust or inheritance
• rental of tools, vehicles, or equipment
• rental of land, self-contained suites, or other property except the applicant or recipient's place of residence
• interest earned on a mortgage or agreement for sale
• maintenance under a court order, separation agreement, or other agreement
• education or training allowances, grants, loans, bursaries, or scholarships
• a lottery or a game of chance

for more details about income types and exemptions click here

To be eligible for income assistance, at least one applicant in the family unit must demonstrate that they have been financially independent for at least two consecutive years prior to applying for assistance. The intent of this requirement is to:

  • encourage people to seek and maintain employment or to pursue education as a means to achieve financial independence
  • promote self-reliance and decrease the likelihood of dependence on income assistance

For more details: http://www.gov.bc.ca/meia/online_resource/verification_and_eligibility/two_year/policy.html#3

Did you know, if you become pregnant while on income assistance, there are two benefits you may be eligible for?

1.  Prenatal supplements - an additional $45.00 per month (or $90 if you are carrying more than one baby). You will need to get the pregnancy verified by your doctor and confirmation that you require natal supplements, which can simply be written on your doctor’s prescription pad. Take the Dr's note into the Ministry and they will provide the supplement for the duration of the pregnancy.

2. Prenatal shelter supplement -  an additional $195.00  per month while you are pregnant to assist in finding housing that will accommodate the new addition to your family.

All income assistance benefits are based on your family status (single / married / children) and your income. Once the baby is born, your family status will change and your benefit will increase.  Your shelter rate will  remain at the same level as when you were pregnant (with the additional shelter supplement), however your support portion will increase.

For example:

A single person with no children would receive $375 (shelter portion) plus $235 (support portion) =  $610.00 per month.

A single person with confirmed pregnancy would receive $375 + $195 (shelter portion plus prenatal supplement) plus $235.00 (support) =$805 per month

a single person with one child  would receive $570 (shelter portion) plus $375.58 (support) = $945.58 per month

Another thing to be aware of is that if you have employable status you will still be required to look for work and attend your work program while pregnant.  However, once the baby is born, if you are a single parent, you will no longer be expected to look for work until your child turns 3 years of age.

*However, if you have a spouse or common-law partner, you will still be expected to be looking for work.


See our Income Assistance Benefit Rate Chart on our Resource Page for more details.

Since income assistance is a British Columbia welfare program, there are rules about being able to continue to receive benefits if you leave the province.

One important rule is that you cannot continue to receive benefits if you are out of the province for more than 30 days regardless of whether you are employable or have PWD status – unless you get specific approval from the Ministry.

So for instance, if you need medical treatment that is ONLY available in Ontario, that requires you to be there for a couple of months, you may receive special approval to keep your income assistance file open.

However, if you were leaving the province to visit family in another province or country for more than 30 days the ministry would say you are no longer eligible for assistance and could close your file. This would mean you would have to go through the application process for income assistance again. Or if they find out after the fact, they would require you to pay back the income assistance benefits you received after the 30 days, as you would no longer have been eligible for assistance.

Another issue that may arise if you leave the province even for a short period of time is if it causes you to be absent from your work program (mandatory if you are on regular assistance with employable status). The expectation is that you attend your work program and only for miss for medical reasons, which you should get medical verification for. Not attending your work program regularly could mean the discontinuation of your income assistance.

The last thing to be aware of is that the Ministry can ask you to bring in your passport, flight documents or other information to verify the duration of time while out of province. Not supplying this information could also result in the Ministry stopping your cheque until you do.

So if you are planning a trip or family is offering to pay for your transportation to go a visit, these are a few things you need to also plan for to ensure it doesn’t affect your benefits.

 

The answer is yes.

If you have children and are on income assistance, there is help for things like health care, activities and educational costs.

Kids are covered under the healthy kids program through the Province of BC. This means they can see a dentist, go to the doctors and be eligible for extended health care benefits. Talk to the Ministry about the extended health care coverage for your children if you have come up against a health care expense you cannot afford.

The Ministry also has a camp fee benefit for families wanting their child to attend summer camp. These funds are limited however, so contact the Ministry early and submit information regarding the cost of the camp to ensure your children can attend.

As well, during the holiday season, the Ministry supplies a supplement based on size of the family unit and the number of dependents in the family. The amount is $70.00 plus $10 for each child.

Lastly, you also will get a school supplement for any school aged children on your file in August to help with costs associated with going back to school. The amounts vary depending on the age of your children. It is 100.00 for children ages 5-11 and 175.00 for children over the age of 12.

*If you have a child with disability, there is no specific assistance under the province’s income assistance program. However, you can get a disability tax credit for your child under the federal government.

And if you are a single parent that cannot leave the home to work more than 30 hours a week because you need to provide extensive care to your child with disability, you would be eligible for an earning exemption. Contact the Ministry if you are in this situation, and ask about their sole-recipient with disabled child earnings exemption status. They can guide you on what is needed to establish this status for your situation.

 

After the age of 18, the child must then start their own application.

If your child is in full-time school any money they earn is exempt and does not get deducted from the family’s income assistance cheque. This would include when they graduate from high school but are going to college in the fall.

However, if your child quits school or is not going to school in the fall, then the money earned is considered as part of the family’s income and the regular earning exemption applies.  Anything over the earnings exemption is deduced dollar for dollar.

For more information, check out the Income Assistance Status Summary Sheet under our Resources page.

 

Your child should automatically be removed from your file once they turn 19. However if this doesn't happen, call the Ministry and they will remove your child from your file.

Also, let the Ministry know if your child no longer resides with you, as they will remove your child from your file and it will impact the benefits you receive.

See our rates chart in the resources section.

The Monthly Nutritional Supplement is a benefit available only to people receiving disability (PWD) benefits (not available to those with Medical Services Only (MSO), Person with Persistent Multiple Barriers (PPMB) or regular income assistance status). This benefit provides for vitamins, minerals and additional nutritional supplementation.

To be eligible, you must have a chronic and progressive deteriorating condition directly causing at least two of the following symptoms:
• Significant deterioration of a vital organ
• Immune suppression (moderate to severe)
• Malnutrition
• Significant muscle mass loss
• Significant neurological deterioration
• Significant weight loss
• Underweight status

On the application, your medical professional will need to verify that the requested items will alleviate the wasting symptoms and will prevent an imminent danger to life and note your health will deteriorate significantly without the nutritional supplement.

If you wish to apply, contact MSDSI and ask for a Monthly Nutritional Supplement application form.  You will then need to ask your doctor or nurse practitioner to complete the form and return it to you.  Then, you submit the form to MSDSI.

 

The Ministry has available diet supplements for people requiring a special diet under these categories:

• Restricted sodium ($10/mth)
• Diabetes ($35/mth)
• Kidney dialysis, when not eligible for kidney dialysis service through the Ministry of Health ($30/mth),
• High Protien ($40/mth),
• Gluten-free diet ($40/mth)
• Dysphgia ($40/mth plus $30 towards the cost of a blender)
• Ketogenic ($40/mth)
• Phenylalanine diet ($40/mth)
• Cystic fibrosis ($50/mth)

To receive a supplement you will require a written confirmation from your doctor of the condition and diet that you require, and how long you need it.  Note that MSDSI can ask you to renew the request every 12 or 24 months, and that they will only pay for one diet supplement at a time, so apply for the highest diet allowance you think you are eligible for.

See here for more information.

 

Effective:  June 27, 2016

Yes, A monthly supplement of $95  may be issued to help with the maintenance of a guide  dog team, service dog team and/or retired guide or service dog team. 

This supplement is available to eligible recipients of income assistance, hardship assistance, or disability assistance. 

For more details on eligibility click here

 


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