B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke. (Submitted)

B.C. to reimburse docked income assistance to thousands of recipients

Province had incorrectly docked up to $700 from more than 500 people a year

The province will reimburse thousands of people up to $700 each after an ombudsperson investigation found that the government miscalculated their income assistance payments.

In a report released Tuesday, the B.C. Ombudsperson said that the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction had incorrectly denied earnings exemptions to more than 500 people a year since 2012.

In B.C., income assistance recipients are docked some assistance per month based on how much outside income they bring in.

However, most recipients qualify for an monthly earning exemption of between $400 and $700. An exemption of $600 is available for people with a dependent child and a $700 exemption is available for those with a dependent child with a condition that prevents the caretaker from working more than 30 hours a week or those who have “persistent multiple barriers to employment.”

All other recipients get a $400 exemption, except people who have “no dependent children, no fixed address, and in the Minister’s opinion, is not taking up permanent residence in the community in which the person submits an application for income assistance.”

READ MORE: B.C. income assistance clients left on hold

However, under the province’s policy, the earning exemption is waived for the first month after someone applies for income assistance.

The investigation stemmed from a complaint by an income recipient assistant (dubbed Ms. Smith) who complained that she had been unfairly denied the earnings exemption in March 2016.

Smith, who had a serious medical condition that made her eligible for a $700 exemption, was able to work from time-to-time, meaning she had to reapply for income assistance.

As a result, she was regularly denied the earning exemption.

Ombudsperson Jay Chalke found that the province acted wrongly by continuing to deny the earning exemption for the first month to all applicants, despite having manually made the exemption for Smith once her complaint was received.

Chalke said that the ministry “acted unjustly and oppressively” in making recipients who were denied the exemption apply to have the ministry reconsider.

The ministry has been told to reimburse all income assistance recipients who missed out on the earning exemption since October 2012 by October of this year.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Council approves facelift for three blocks of Broadway

Downtown revitalization plans shortened by half to stay within budget

Nakusp council briefs May 14

Donations, dogs and fitness on agenda

Ten affordable housing units coming to Nakusp

BC Housing and CBT funding approved

Aiming high at Nakusp Secondary School

Ourdoor ed students behind indoor climbing wall for community use

Kootenay unemployment rate down in April

Jobless figure stood at 5.4% last month

Trans Mountain pipeline: Is it worth the risk?

Concerns range from the threat of an oil spill to the impact of tanker traffic on wildlife

B.C. to spend $181M to create 200 general practitioner jobs

Jobs will go to new medical school graduates

Federal leaders trade barbs about India trip at press gallery dinner

Justin Trudeau’s infamous trip to India earlier this year was the focus of many of the jabs

B.C. VIEWS: Our poverty reduction plan is already in place

NDP has another promise it needs to appear to keep

WestJet pilot strike averted as parties agree to mediation

Pilots had warned they could go on strike starting May 19

Most Read