Q: My friend gets something called the Guaranteed Income Supplement. Neither of us gets any private pensions, just CPP (Canada Pension Plan) and OAS (Old Age Security), so our income is probably pretty similar. Why is she getting it and I’m not?
A: It’s quite possible you are also eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). The GIS is a monthly non-taxable benefit for people who are receiving Old Age Security (OAS) and have a low income. The current income cut-off for a single, widowed or divorced senior receiving OAS is $18,600. If you get the GIS, you will also automatically get the 65Plus drug card.
Until very recently, the GIS was something seniors had to apply for, so there are some seniors out there who should be getting it, but are not. As well, some seniors may have had the GIS at one time, but then lost it if they didn’t file their taxes or had a one-time increase in income (for example, if they cashed a RRSP) and didn’t reapply.
To find out if you are eligible and to apply for the GIS, go to your nearest Service Canada office or call 1-800-277-9914. (You will need to have your social insurance number with you when you call or visit.) If it turns out you were eligible for the GIS and not getting it, you may receive up to 11 months of back pay.
Q: Right now, I am stressed out with trying to make my bill payments and still have enough for food. What can I do?
A: Unfortunately, that is something we are hearing from many seniors today. A good place to start would be to contact one of the two non-profit credit counselling agencies in Newfoundland and Labrador.
These agencies provide free, confidential support with budgeting and ways to manage debt and can often help set up payment arrangements with businesses that you owe money to.
• Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada: 1-888-753-2227, ext. 0
• Credit Counselling Services of Newfoundland and Labrador: 1-888-738-3328
If you are older than 65, it might also be worth a call to Service Canada (see the question and answer above) to make sure you are receiving everything you are eligible for.
You are also welcome to call us at SeniorsNL (1-800-563-5599) to see if you are taking advantage of all available government programs, such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing modification and repair programs, etc.
And finally, if you need to access a food bank, you can call the Community Food Sharing Association to find out which food bank is closest to your location. They can be reached at 709-722-0130.