Living on the Edge: As Some Retirees Struggle With Inflation, CARP Lobbies Ottawa for Relief
CARP is lobbying the government to consider these measures to help older Canadians facing financial insecurity. Photo: Morsa Images/Getty Images
With higher food and energy prices expected to stay with us until well into 2023, the affordability crisis continues to dent our pocketbooks. While most older Canadians are trimming their budgets to cope with higher prices, low-income seniors don’t have that luxury, notes Bill VanGorder, chief operating officer at CARP (a ZoomerMedia affiliate). Instead, “they’re cutting back on necessities or turning to family members or even food banks for relief.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that his government is monitoring inflation closely and will respond with “appropriate and targeted supports for the people who need it most.” CARP is lobbying the government to consider the following measures to help older Canadians facing financial insecurity.
A quick way for the federal government to get relief into the hands of seniors, says VanGorder, is through benefit programs like Old Age Security (OAS), the universal retirement pension for those who have reached the age of 65. In July 2022, Ottawa increased OAS payments, but only for those over the age of 75. This bump doesn’t apply to those between the ages of 65 and 74, who now receive up to $800 less each year in benefits than those in the older age group.
“Being a caregiver isn’t cheap,” says VanGorder, noting that countless goods and services, including nurses, personal support workers and medical supplies, must be paid for out of pocket. Ottawa could provide quick relief by exempting in-home caregiver services from the federal portion of the HST, as it does for certain basic supplies like milk, bread, fish and prescription drugs.
Caregiver Tax Credit
VanGorder notes that many Canadians must quit their jobs in order to provide care for a loved one, which puts themselves at greater risk of financial insecurity. While caregivers can claim the non-refundable Canada Caregiver Tax Credit, worth up to $7,348, it only benefits you if you have a job and pay taxes. VanGorder says by making this a refundable credit (or rebate), the government could give all caregivers a boost at tax time, regardless of their employment status.
High-Dose Flu Shots
Flu shots protect the most vulnerable during the fall and winter months, including seniors. However, not all provinces or territories cover the cost. Seniors living in B.C., Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec and Nova Scotia must pay for it themselves, which can cost up to $100, depending on where they live. CARP is calling on all provinces to provide the government-recommended high dose flu shot for everyone over 65.
RRIF Withdrawal Rules
Tax law requires that those who own a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) must withdraw a minimum amount from it each year beginning at age 71. CARP feels that these mandatory withdrawal rules force older Canadians to draw down their savings at a time they don’t need it and compels them to cash out investments, regardless of how the market is performing so they risk missing out on opportunities for growth. The rigidity of the rules means less flexibility for RRIF holders and lessens their ability to deal with financial challenges, like inflation.
A version this article appeared in the Feb/Mar 2023 issue with the headline ‘Living on the Edge’, p. 46.