I realized yesterday that a couple of important issues weren’t explained in my last blog entry.
If you missed me talking about Jan being forced back to work despite both of us being high risk during the pandemic, you should go back and check it out. Actually, it’s kind of essential to understanding this next part so you should probably read. Go ahead… I’ll wait.
All done? Good! The next bit gets a little convoluted so I’ll do my best to be concise.
Playing Hokey ODSPokey
My case worker wasn’t there but, wanting to make sure we wouldn’t get cut off for doing so, Jan talked to someone filling in. That person told us they would be treating it as income. The provincial government itself hadn’t given them any official directives at the time, so that’s how they were interpreting the benefit money in our area.
A few weeks later, a story broke about someone who had their ODSP suspended entirely because he went on CERB. With no official plan for how to handle this, the provincial government hastily made an announcement to stop any clawbacks as they assessed the situation.
Less than a week later, they reversed the decision and began treating CERB as income officially.
As I previously explained, it resulted in them taking 50% of gross income instead of net income.
The last news article I linked to above detailed the provincial government’s planned at the time to reinvest the money for those not on CERB. This is of little use to us when what we receive after clawbacks isn’t enough to get by. More on that later though.
We have $1,800 of our CERB payment slashed in half off the top (the first $200 is exempt because of their own rules) but we were setting it aside for the income tax we’ll have to pay eventually. Then there’s the added complication of being in a benefit unit.
Because we’re married, it makes us a benefit unit. That means both our incomes are lumped together and 50% of that is removed from my ODSP payments every month. We also get a $100 work related benefit for any expenses incurred from an actual job. Since Jan is part of my benefit unit, she gets it too.
Sounds great, right? Well not so fast!
Doing The Math
So right off the bat we’re short $100 because Jan was off work and receiving CERB.
From there, the $2,000 she receives for being off work is treated as straight income and we need to set aside about $400 for income tax season to be safe. That 2,000 gets brought down to $700 essentially and then the rest comes from whatever ODSP pays for shelter and food that month. For July, we received about $950 so that leaves us about $1,550 to survive for the month.
Did I mention that our rent alone is above $1,000? We don’t even live in an area like Toronto where apartments are insanely expensive either.
ODSP’s Astonishing Disappearing Act
Not only is it extremely tight, they don’t even break things down to show where the number came from.
A few months ago, we received a statement that made it look like $700 in CERB payments would be exempt. Skip to July and they took off $900 instead. Without anything to verify that the numbers add up, how do you even call them out on it? It also makes budgeting impossible.
Another huge complication is that CERB is issued a week into the month. This means it bleeds into the next while ODSP looks at income and provides the pension on a monthly basis. So we technically get $2,000 all at once in the monthly period, but a week of that four week lump sum is intended for the next month. We asked how to take this into consideration when filling out my monthly income report and never received a response from anyone.
I’m not surprised either: Case workers are slammed and oDSP offices are only open four hours Monday-to-Friday.)
Suck It Up Buttercup
If Jan had been risking her health and working, we would actually be ahead too.
As mentioned in my previous blog entry, those on ODSP and not receiving CERB were given extra income. Of course, you only received it upon asking your case worker about the extra funds. You know, the same ones nobody can get in contact with because of the reduced hours? It’s just way too hard to manage, creates tons of stress and has really impacted our mental health in the process.
In the end, there are several factors and nuances that many don’t see. That’s also part of what frustrates me so much.