Income Assistance (IA)
Income Assistance is the welfare program in British Columbia.
The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (MSDPR) provides financial support for low or no income individuals through a variety of statuses including regular employable Income Assistance, Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers (PPMB) and Persons with Disabilities (PWD).
Applying can be complex and the system has a lot of rules. Please see our related videos and answers to commonly asked questions regarding income assistance. Also take a look at our resources section that provides a rate chart that outlines eligibility amounts and asset limits.
Income Assistance (IA) 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, assets, residency, family status (single/children etc.), and other factors. Also any money you receive from other sources may affect whether you qualify and how much you will receive.
The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction has three income assistance programs:
- Income Assistance (IA)
- Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers (PPMB)
- Persons with Disabilities (PWD)
Your eligibility for IA is based on your income, your assets, family status, residency, work history, and other factors. If you are currently earning more than the IA benefit rate that applies to your family status, it is unlikely that you will be eligible for IA.
For example: If you are single (between 19-64 years) and your shelter costs are more than $375, the maximum IA benefit rate is $760 per month.
For more details, click here.
Once you are approved for IA, how much you will receive depends on your family situation (i.e. whether you are single, married, common law or have children), your age, or whether you’re receiving income from another source. The IA benefit includes a portion of money for shelter and a portion of money for support. In order to receive the shelter portion, you must have actual shelter costs (i.e. rent, mortgage, utility costs, etc.).
For example: If you are a single person between the ages of 19-64, the benefit rate would be $760 ($375 shelter portion + $385 support portion).
The table below shows the maximum benefit you might be eligible for based on your family unit.
|Single Person: Aged 19-64||$375||$385||$760|
|Single Person: with Confirmed Pregnancy (Prenatal Shelter Supplement)||$375 + 195||$385||$955|
|Single Person: Over 65||$375||$681.42||$1056.42|
|Couple: Under Age 65||$570||$507.22||$1077.22|
|Couple: One Under 65 Once Over 65||$570||$900.56||$1470.56|
|Couple: with 1 Child||$660||$601.06||$1261.06|
|Single Parent: with 1 Child||$570||$525.58||$1095.58|
Recipients of IA should receive basic health coverage. This includes premium-free medical services plan and coverage under PharmaCare for prescription drugs. In addition, depending on your circumstances, you may also get other expenses covered.
For a full list of other health supplements and benefits, click here.
You can get helped right away if you’re in immediate need and have no other resources to meet that need. For example:
- If you have run out, or will run out of your medication soon
- If you have no food
- If you are about to get evicted or are currently homeless
- If you are fleeing abuse
When you apply for assistance, if one of the above things is occurring, be sure to let the Ministry know.
You can earn some money while you are on IA, but there are limits to how much income you can earn (referred to as “earned income”) without it affecting your assistance. If you are a single person or a couple with no dependents, the earned income limit is $400 per month. If you are a couple with one child or a single parent with one dependent, the earned income limit is $600 per month.
If you are a single person or a couple with no dependents and earn more than $400, your IA payment will be reduced by the amount your earnings.
For example: Your regular IA payment is $760 and your earnings exemption is $400. This month you earn $500 so your IA payment will be reduced to $660 ($760-$100) as you earned $100 over the $400 monthly earnings limit.
The table below shows the earning exemptions for IA dependent on your family size.
|Classification||Monthly Earnings Exemption|
|Single Person: Aged 19-64||$400|
|Single Person: with Confirmed Pregnancy||$400|
|Single Person: Over 65||$400|
|Couple: Under Age 65||$400|
|Couple: One Under 65 One Over 65||$400|
|Couple: with 1 Child||$600|
|Single parent: with 1 Child||$600|
It is important to understand the difference between “earned income” and “unearned income” when applying for or receiving IA.
For more details about income types and exemptions, click here.
Earned income is income that is classified as any of the following:
- Any money received for working
- Pension plan contributions that are refunded due to insufficient contributions
- 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:
- Employment Insurance (EI)
- Any type or class of Canada Pension Plan benefits (i.e. CPP, CPP-D, CPP-E)
- Old Age Security and related benefits (i.e OAS, GIS, allowance)
- War disability pensions, military pensions, and war veterans’ allowances
- Tax refund
- Workers’ compensation benefits and disability payments or pensions
- A trust or inheritance
- 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
- And more…
For more details about income types and exemptions, click here.
Assets are considered assets if they can be converted to cash. That is, if the item has monetary value, then it is considered an asset. Assets can include cash, savings, stocks, bonds, RRSPs and more. When applying or on IA, you are allowed to have certain “assets” that do not affect your assistance, as long as these assets are within your allowable asset limits. If the value of these assets exceed your allowable limits, then IA applicants are required to use their assets for personal independence.
The Ministry places a maximum value amount of assets you can have when applying or while on IA. A single employable person is allowed to have up to $5,000 in assets. If the dollar amount exceeds $5,000, the person may not be eligible for assistance.
The table below shows the asset level one is allowed to have depending on their family unit.
|Single Person: Aged 19-64||$5,000|
|Single Person: with Confirmed Pregnancy||$5,000|
|Single Person: Over 65||$5,000|
|Couple: Under Age 65||$10,000|
|Couple: One Under 65 One Over 65||$10,000|
|Couple: with 1 Child||$10,000|
|Single parent: with 1 Child||$10,000|
Some assets are considered exempt for determining eligibility for IA. Below you will find some of the most commonly asked about exempt assets.
- Clothing and necessary household equipment
- One vehicle for everyday transportation needs
- A family unit’s place of residence (*you must live in the home for it to be exempt)
- Tax refund
- Child tax credit
- Universal Child Care Benefit
- BC Early Childhood Tax Benefit
- Goods and services tax credit; harmonized sales tax credit; a sales tax credit the Income Tax Act (Canada)
- 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
- Funds held in a registered education savings plan (RESP) a dependent child
- Money received from the 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
- And more…
For a full list of exempt assets click here
To be eligible for IA, at least one applicant in the family unit must demonstrate that they have been financially independent for at least two consecutive years at any point in their lives.
To demonstrate this someone in the family unit must show at least one of the following:
- Worked for at least 840 hours in each of two consecutive years
- Earned at least $7,000 in gross income in each of two consecutive years
- Been employed for a portion of two consecutive years, and for the balance of the two years, either:
- Served a waiting period for or received Employment Insurance (EI)
- Received income from a private or public income replacement program (i.e. WCB, CPP, Disability Insurance)
For more details about the two year independence requirement, click here.
If you are unable to meet the two year independence requirement, you may be exempt. Some exemptions include:
- Applicants under age 19
- Anyone in the family unit has PWD status
- Applicants who are pregnant, have dependent children, have a foster child, or have a child in the home of a relative (CIHR)
- Applicants who have or had a medical condition that either:
- Will prevent them from working for at least 30 days from the date of application
- Prevented them from working for at least six months during the two years immediately prior to applying for assistance
- Applicants who were incarcerated for at least six months during the two years right before applying
- The applicant was previously in the care of the MCFD
- Applicants who are fleeing abuse (within the last 6 months)
- Applicants with a two-year diploma/certificate or higher
- And more…
For a full list of exemptions from the two year independence requirement, click here.
There are two additional benefits you may be eligible for if you become pregnant while on IA:
- Prenatal supplements – which is an additional $45 per month (or $90 if you are carrying more than one baby) may be provided for a child under the age of seven months. This is to help with extra costs with prenatal and postnatal expenses.
- Prenatal shelter supplement – which is an additional $195 per month may be provided while you are pregnant to assist in finding housing that will accommodate the new addition to your family.
To apply for these benefits you will need to provide the Ministry with verification from your doctor of your pregnancy and confirmation that you require natal supplements.
Note: Be aware that if you have employable status you will still be required to look for work and attend your work program while pregnant.
Once the baby is born, your family status will change and your benefit should increase. Your shelter rate may remain the same as when you were pregnant but your support portion will increase.
- Single persons with confirmed pregnancy could receive up to $905 per month
- Single persons with one child could receive up to $1,095.58 per month
Note: 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.
The IA program requires applicants and recipients to reside in BC. There are also rules around being out of the province. You may not be eligible to receive benefits if you are out of BC for more than 30 consecutive days – unless you get specific approval from the Ministry.
Some examples include:
- Needing medical treatment that is only available outside of BC
- Requiring to participate in a formal education program
- Avoiding undue hardship
For more information, click here.
There are multiple benefits for children on Ministry assistance such as:
- Healthy kids program: kids are covered under the healthy kids program meaning 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.
- Camp fee supplement: is for families wanting their child to attend summer camp. These funds are limited, so you may want to contact the Ministry early.
- Christmas supplement is issued for the month of December based on size of the family unit to help with the holiday costs. The amount for recipients with children is $70 plus $10 for each child.
- School start-up supplement: is issued for the month of August to help with costs associated with going back to school. The amounts vary depending on the age of your children. The amount is $100 for children ages 5-11 and $175 for children over the age of 12.
- Sole-recipient with disabled child: 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 may be eligible for an earning exemption under this category.
When your dependent child turns 19 years old, they then must apply for IA on their own to create a file for themselves as adults.
Normally when a child turns 19, they should be automatically removed from your file but to be certain you avoid an overpayment, you may also want to let the Ministry know that your child needs to be taken off your file.
If your child is in full-time school, any money they earn is exempt and should not be deducted from the family’s IA 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 deducted dollar for dollar.
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.
The Ministry has available diet supplements for people requiring a special diet under these categories:
|Restricted Sodium Diet||$10 per month|
|Kidney Dialysis||$30 per month|
|Diabetes||$35 per month|
|Gluten-Free Diet or Dysphagia||$40 per month|
|High Protein Diet||$40 per month|
|Cystic Fibrosis||$50 per month|
To receive a supplement you will require a written confirmation from a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered dietitian of the condition and diet that you require, and how long you need it.
Note: The MSDPR 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 you may want to apply for the highest diet allowance you think you are eligible for.
The Ministry may offer a monthly supplement of $95 to help with the maintenance of a guide dog team, service dog team and/or retired guide or service dog team.
For more details on eligibility, click here.
If you meet specific criteria, crisis supplements may be provided. However, most will require pre-approval from the Ministry. Different types of crisis supplements have different guidelines. The Ministry can issue up to the maximum amount of crisis supplement in accordance to what is set in legislation if you are an income assistance or hardship recipient and you meet the eligibility criteria.
Regardless of the type of crisis supplement, the eligibility requirements are the same:
- It is an unexpected expense or the item is needed unexpectedly,
- The absence of this would result in danger to physical health or risk of child apprehension, and
- There is no other available resource to meet the need.
The 3 main types of crisis supplements that the Ministry can issue are for food, shelter and clothing:
- Shelter Crisis Supplement: An example could be if you receive an eviction notice that states you owe $400. The Ministry may be able to give you $375 (which is the amount for a single person’s shelter entitlement). In addition, you would have to show how you would come up with the additional $25.
- Clothing Crisis Supplement: An example could be if you were doing laundry at a laundromat and your clothes were stolen. The Ministry may give up to $100 per person per year (maximum $400 for the family unit, regardless of how many family members)
- Food Crisis Supplement: An example could be if there is a power outage and all the food in a fridge is spoiled and needs to be replaced. The Ministry may give up to $40 for the month.
|Types of Crisis Supplement||Maximum Amount|
|Food||Up to $40/person per month|
|Clothing||Up to $100/person per year (Maximum $400/year per family unit)|
|Shelter||Restricted to the actual cost, up to the maximum shelter allowance|
People who are deemed eligible for IA may be able to get some General and Health Supplements. Some of these supplements are:
For a complete list of supplements available to IA recipients, click here.
IA Application FAQs
Most applications for IA are done online now through the My Self Serve (MySS). To do so you will need to set up a MySS account if you do not already have one and you will need an email account to set up your account.
Click here to create or login to your MySS account and check out the video below on how to set up and use your MySS account.
If you are already receiving income or disability assistance, the MySS will allow you to access your information online, view personal messages from the ministry, submit your monthly report, and upload documents.
If you are unable to complete the application process online, you can call 1-866-866-0800 or go into the Ministry office for assistance.
- 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 IA, PPMB will not be available to you, as one requirement is that you must have been on assistance for 12 out of the last 15 months to be eligible.
In order to complete the IA application, you will need to provide details about your current situation, income and assets.
Be ready to give information, such as:
- ID for you and your family
- Your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
- How much you pay for rent and utilities
- A bank profile and statements for the last 60 days
You will also be asked if:
- You are awaiting any other source of income (i.e. CPP, EI, WCB, etc.)
- You have any outstanding warrants
- A family member sponsored you into Canada
The IA application is set up as an online application and so you will need to get access to a computer from a friend, your local library or at your nearest community services office. If you are having difficulty completing the application on your own, contact your local advocacy office to make an appointment for help.
To visit PovNet to find a local advocacy office in your area, click here.
If you don’t have an address or pay any shelter costs, you can still apply; however, you will only receive the support portion and not the shelter portion.
For example: A single person would only receive $385 (support portion). Until they have actual shelter costs, at that point then they could receive $375 (shelter portion) as well.
Note: You may want to let the Ministry know if you are homeless and currently in need of food, shelter, or medication.
Once you submit your online application through the MySS, a Ministry worker should contact you within 5 business days. If you’re in immediate need, you should be contacted by the Ministry within 1-3 business days.
If you don’t hear from them in these time frames, call the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction at 1-866-866-0800 to follow up.
In our experience IA applications on average take anywhere from 1-5 weeks to determine eligibility. Knowing how to fill out the application properly can help with reducing the time it takes. It also depends on the time it takes you to collect requested documents.
If you live on reserve in British Columbia need to apply for IA, you can:
- Contact your band social development worker or
- Call Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada at 604-775-5100 or 1-800-567-9604 (toll free).
Income Assistance Forms
- Application – Online Application for Income Assistance (My Self Serve)
- Form – Consent for Service Authorization
- Form – Direct Deposit
- Form – Document Checklist
- Form – Monthly Report
- Form – Shelter Information
- Form – Work Search
- Form – Consent to Disclosure of Information
- Form – Bank Profile and Consent
Income Assistance Fact Sheets
- Fact Sheet – Diet Supplements
- Fact Sheet – Additional Supplements
- Fact Sheet – Crisis Supplements
- Fact Sheet – Asset Limits
- Fact Sheet – Income Assistance Application
- Fact Sheet – Summary
- Fact Sheet – Request for Reconsideration
- Fact Sheet – Moving Supplement
- Fact Sheet – Living Arrangements
- Fact Sheet – Hardship Assistance
Income Assistance Tables/Charts
Income Assistance Quick Reference Guide
- Quick Reference Guide (Coming soon)
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- Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Updates July 11, 2019
- Income Assistance and Disability Benefits Increase March 22, 2019
- B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit March 21, 2019