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NDP calls on government to give emergency one-off payment to desperate seniors

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OTTAWA — New Democrats want the federal government to give the most cash-strapped seniors a one-off emergency payment to help them pay for basics, including food and rent.

Rachel Blaney, the NDP's spokeswoman on seniors, said at a news conference Friday that some low-income seniors can't afford their rent, and are living in their cars.

The NDP wants an emergency payment to help low-income seniors who claimed pandemic supports that led to their guaranteed income supplement payments being cut.

On Thursday, Blaney and NDP finance critic Daniel Blaikie wrote to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Seniors Minister Kamal Khera asking them to swiftly provide the one-time payment to help pensioners struggling to get by.

At the news conference, Blaney described the dire circumstances some pensioners who had contacted NDP MPs were in. She said some had gone to loan sharks for money to pay their rent.

Blaney recounted how the NDP had been contacted by family members of pensioners saying their relatives were considering taking their own lives.

She recalled one person who said, "My mom is talking about suicide."

In December, in the government's economic and fiscal update, Freeland allocated $742 million for one-time payments to low-income seniors impacted by clawbacks of their GIS benefit.

But Blaikie said the money won't reach their bank accounts until May.

"That will be too late for many seniors going hungry, struggling to pay for medication and experiencing homelessness. It’s absolutely unacceptable for the government to make them wait until May for help," he said.

"That’s why we’re asking the minister to get money out the door and into seniors’ pockets now.”

Adrienne Vaupshas, press secretary to Freeland, said seniors who had their benefits clawed back after claiming COVID-19 emergency benefits would get their money back.

"Our government is committed to supporting the most vulnerable Canadians … including our seniors. We will ensure that seniors are fully compensated for any decline in their GIS benefits if they needed to access CERB last year as quickly as possible. We will be there to support them," Vaupshas said.

Khera's spokesman, Shane Mackenzie, said the government was committed to supporting low-income seniors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press