The COVID-19 pandemic has strained our long-term care facilities across the country like never before. As families anxiously await the time when they can once again see their loved ones living in long-term care homes, organizations in the space work every day to protect the health and well-being of senior residents. In addition, many seniors have faced economic challenges as they take on extra costs to stay safe and protect their health.
It follows that the targeted relief measures proposed by the federal budget, which was tabled by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on April 19, 2021 (the “2021 Budget”) are a welcome and well-deserved measure to strengthen long-term and supportive care.
The 2021 Budget proposes to provide $90 million to Employment and Social Development Canada, a governmental department responsible for social programs, to launch the Age Well at Home Initiative. This initiative will assist community-based organizations to provide practical support that helps low-income and otherwise vulnerable seniors age in place, such as matching seniors with volunteers who can help with meal preparations, home maintenance, daily errands, yard work and transportation. This initiative will also target regional and national projects to help expand services that have already demonstrated results in helping seniors stay in their homes.
Funding will be provided over a three-year period, starting in 2021-2022. We are pleased to say that many non-profits and charitable organizations working with seniors across the country stand to benefit from this measure.
In addition, the 2021 Budget proposes to build on work conducted by Health Standards Organization and Canadian Standards Association in launching a process to develop national standards focused on improving the quality of life of seniors in long-term care homes. To this end, the 2021 Budget proposes to provide:
- $3 billion over five years, starting in 2022-2023 to Health Canada to support provinces and territories in ensuring standards for long-term care are applied and permanent changes are made; and
- $41.3 million over six years, and $7.7 million ongoing, starting in 2021-2022, for Statistics Canada to improve data infrastructure and data collection on supportive care, primary care and pharmaceuticals.
Lastly, many seniors are living longer and relying on monthly benefits to afford retirement. The Federal Government is committed to increasing Old Age Security (“OAS”) benefits for seniors aged 75 and older in two steps:
- The 2021 Budget proposes to meet the immediate needs of this group of seniors by providing a one-time payment of $500 in August 2021 to OAS pensioners who will be 75 or over as of June 2022; and
- The 2021 Budget then proposes to introduce legislation to increase regular OAS payments for pensioners 75 and over by 10 per cent on an ongoing basis as of July 2022. This would increase the benefits for approximately 3.3 million seniors, providing additional benefits of $766 to full pensioners in the first year, and indexed to inflation going forward. This would give seniors more financial security later in life, particularly at the time when they face increased care expenses and greater risk of running out of savings.
In total, these two measures represent $12 billion over five years in additional financial support, beginning in 2021-2022, and at least $3 billion per year ongoing, to be delivered by Employment and Social Development Canada.
We will continue to provide updates on the proposed funding and benefits as more information becomes available. We also want to take this opportunity to thank the staff, volunteers and all those working in the sector for their tireless efforts in keeping our Canadian seniors safe.