Financial Help for People with Disabilities
The Dial-A-Law library is prepared by lawyers and gives practical information on many areas of law in British Columbia. Script 289 gives information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call the Lawyer Referral Service at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.
People with disabilities can get financial help and support from several places. This script explains some of the help available, plus how and where to get more information. It does not list every possible type of help, but it’s a good starting point. Some information appears in more than one place.
Many financial assistance programs require you to report any other money and support you are receiving, such as pension and employment insurance benefits. You should check with each program about its rules on reporting other benefits you receive, and how they may affect your disability assistance.
Canadian government help and programs
Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefit
A monthly CPP disability benefit may be available to people who:
- are under 65,
- stopped working because of a medical condition, and
- paid into the Canada Pension Plan.
CPP Disability Vocational Rehabilitation Program
This program offers vocational counseling, financial support for training, and job search services to people who receive CPP Disability Benefits to help them return to work.
Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)
This federal grant/bond program provides up to $4,500 in free grants/bonds a year, with a savings deposit of $1,500 each year. Anyone under 60 who is eligible for the disability tax credit can establish an RDSP. For a disabled child, the parent or guardian can set up the RDSP. The RDSP is a way for a person or child with a disability and their families to save for the future.
Several tax benefits are available to people with disabilities, including the disability tax credit. The Canada Revenue Agency website has details.
Federal excise gasoline tax refund
If a medical doctor certifies that a person has permanent mobility impairment and cannot safely use public transport, they can apply for a refund of part of the federal excise tax on the gas they buy.
Disability benefits for veterans
Disabled veterans may qualify for the Veterans Affairs Canada disability benefit—an award or pension. Veterans may also be eligible for other financial support, such as the War Veterans Allowance.
Employment Insurance compassionate care benefits
People can receive compassionate care benefits for up to six weeks if they have to miss work temporarily to care for a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death. Unemployed people who are already receiving Employment Insurance benefits can also apply for compassionate care benefits.
Persons with Disabilities Online, tax and financial benefits
Various benefits are explained on this website.
This site lists many other federal benefits (organized by category), such as:
- Employment Insurance regular benefits
- Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits
- Employment Insurance (EI) fishing benefits
- The GST/HST credit for people with low or modest incomes
- The GST/HST general rebates
- Employment Insurance benefits to certain people who live outside Canada if their job is insured under Canada's EI program
- International benefits
Income assistance for people with disabilities
This site lists income assistance and other programs and services for people with disabilities.
This site asks several questions about your situation and then generates a list of possible BC and federal benefits, with links to the programs.
BC government help and programs
BC Income Assistance
The BCEA program helps adults 18 or over who are designated as a person with disabilities resulting from a physical or mental impairment that significantly restricts their ability to perform daily living activities. Some examples of assistance are:
- monthly support and shelter allowance
- various supplements, including health supplements
- medical coverage
- low-cost annual bus passes
- transportation support allowance (as of September 1, 2016)
- career planning services
- job training
The BCEA program also offers other help to people with disabilities (including children, adults, and their families). This includes:
- procedural help for 17½-year-olds to apply for the person with disabilities designation so they can receive disability assistance when they turn 18.
- increased assets limit of $100,000 based on family unit size.
- Annualized Earnings Exemption (AEE) starting at $1,000 per full calendar month ($12,000 per full calendar year) for a single-person family unit and more for family units of more than 1 person. People on disability assistance can use their earnings exemption on a yearly (instead of monthly) basis, without a monthly maximum.
You can apply for assistance online.
The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction has detailed information on income assistance for persons with disabilities. Or you can call the ministry at 1.866.866.0800.
If you have an outstanding arrest warrant for an indictable or hybrid offence anywhere in Canada, you cannot get income or disability assistance in BC unless you first do something about the warrant. Check script 204, on "Outstanding Warrants and Welfare", for details.
The Bus Pass Program offers lower cost, annual bus passes for low income seniors and people receiving disability assistance from BC.
Call Enquiry BC to ask about any provincial program. The numbers are 604.660.2421 in Vancouver, 250.387.6121 in Victoria, and 1.800.663.7867 elsewhere in BC.
Financial help for students with disabilities (from Canadian and BC governments)
Canada Student Loans Program—Permanent Disability Benefit
Students with a permanent disability who are having trouble repaying their loans due to their disability can apply to the National Student Loans Service Centre to have their loans forgiven (so they don’t have to repay the loan).
Canada student grant for students with permanent disabilities
This program helps part- or full-time students with permanent disabilities with the cost of education.
Canada student grant for services and equipment for students with permanent disabilities
This program helps part- or full-time students with permanent disabilities pay for exceptional education related costs for services and equipment.
Canada student grant for students with dependants
This program helps full-time students with the cost of education if they have dependants 12 or older with a permanent disability. Part-time students are also eligible.
This BC government website has information on student loans, grants, and scholarships. It also has programs that help with loan repayment. And you can apply for student loans on the site. Search the site for “disability” to find all the relevant information.
BC assistance program for students with permanent disabilities
This program helps students with permanent disabilities pay for exceptional education-related services and adaptive equipment.
BC supplemental bursary for students with a permanent disability
Various bursaries are available, depending on your course load.
BC access grant for students with permanent disabilities
This program helps full-time students with a permanent disability with the cost of education by replacing about $1,000 in BC student loan funding.
BC access grant for deaf students
This grant helps deaf and hard-of-hearing students with the additional costs while attending specialized post-secondary institutions where curriculum is delivered in American Sign Language.
Youth educational assistance fund for former youth in care
This program provides grants up to $5,500 to former BC youth in care students between 19 and 23 years old. They have to meet several criteria, including being a full-time student or a student with a permanent disability studying at a reduced course load.
Repayment assistance plan for borrowers with a permanent disability
This plan helps you manage your Canada Student Loan and B.C. Student Loan debt by reducing your monthly payment and letting you pay back what you can reasonably afford.
Grants and scholarships that do not have to be repaid
Several BC and federal grants and scholarships listed here are for students with a permanent disability.
Severe permanent disability benefit
This program forgives (or cancels) student loans if you have a severe permanent disability that prevents you from working or going to school, and prevents you from ever being able to repay your loans.
Learning disability assessment bursary
This bursary program helps part- and full-time students with the initial costs of the learning disabilities assessment.
Other help and information
- The Law Centre: this clinic in Victoria, run by University of Victoria law students, helps people with disabilities (who cannot afford a lawyer) to get employment insurance, CPP disability benefits, and other benefits. They also help with appeals. Call 250.385.1221.
- Law Students’ Legal Advice Program: this is like The Law Centre in Victoria, but University of BC law students operate it. Clinics are throughout Greater Vancouver. Call 604.822.5791.
- Disability Alliance BC: the Alliance has information on BC disability benefits and Canada Pension Plan Disability benefits. These publications have checklists, help sheets, application guides, and appeal guides. Call 604.875.0188 in Vancouver and 1.800.663.1278 elsewhere in BC.
- Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS): based in Victoria, TAPS offers free legal help for people with income assistance, disability benefits, and tenancy issues. Call 250.361.3521.
- Legal Services Society (LSS) BC: LSS provides free legal information. The publication called “How to Apply for Welfare” has information on social assistance.
- Script 288, Income Assistance: Reconsiderations and Appeals: this Dial-A-Law script explains that if you apply for or receive monthly income or disability assistance, you have the right to a reconsideration, and then an appeal, of most decisions that deny, reduce, or end that assistance. The script includes a link to the Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal.
[updated June 2018]
The above was edited by John Blois.
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