This month's On the Radar, the CLEO enewsletter gives highlights of rule changes for people on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). These changes include increases in the value of assets people can own and new rules about gifts that won't affect their assistance.
The rules are complicated. There's more detailed information on the Steps to Justice website.
Higher limits on assets
Assets are things that someone owns. OW and ODSP have rules about the amount someone can have in income and assets and still qualify financially for social assistance.
As of September 1, 2017, these amounts went up.
For example, a single person getting financial assistance from OW can now have $10,000 in assets, up from $2,500. A single person getting income support from ODSP can have $40,000 in assets, up from $5,000.
A couple on OW can now have $15,000 in assets, up from $5,000. And a couple on ODSP can have $50,000, up from $7,500.
Increased limit on gifts
With the new rules, in any 12-month period people can receive gifts that are worth up to $10,000 and OW and ODSP won't count this as income. This amount used to be $6,000.
If people don't spend the money in the month that they get it, the money becomes an asset in the following month. People can avoid going over their asset limit by spending the money on "exempt" assets. The rules about this are different for OW and ODSP.
Gifts of money that are for certain things
OW and ODSP do not count money in any amount that someone receives as a gift:
• to use as first and last month's rent for a place to live
• to help buy a home to live in
• to help buy a car that's an exempt asset
And ODSP does not count money that someone receives as a gift to put in a registered education savings plan (RESP) or a registered disability savings plan (RDSP).
OW and ODSP have guidelines about spending the money within certain time limits.
New rules about claiming employment expenses
ODSP rules say that people can work and still get income support as long as they:
• tell ODSP about any money they make
• don't make too much money
The general rule is that people can make $200 in net earnings in a month before ODSP reduces their monthly income support.
People who have expenses related to working because of their disability may be able to keep more of their income support. As of September 1, 2017, the amount they can deduct for these kinds of expenses is $1,000 a month, up from $300.
They need to show proof of their expenses, for example, receipts to show what they paid.