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Montreal seniors worried about making ends meet after federal benefit abruptly ends

Some Montreal seniors like Barbara Hudson in the Montreal West Island municipality of Dollard-Des Ormeaux are worried they will no longer be able to make ends meet after a federal government benefit abruptly ended with very little notice.

Hudson is visually impaired.

In March, with her first Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payment, she bought large screens at home to be able to read documents online, much better, she said, than using a screen magnifier on a regular computer screen.

“If you use a screen magnifier to double its size, you’re only seeing effectively a seven-inch screen,” she explained.  “You can’t see the whole document.”

But then in late July her GIS payments, a significant portion of her Old Age Security (OAS) pension, stopped.

“I mean cutting it down to $666 a month, with three days notice,” she told Global News.

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That’s down down from $1,400, she added.

Without the additional money, she says, she won’t be able to complete her computer setup and will also have trouble meeting her monthly living expenses.

Hudson was required to declare any benefits on a GIS payment form earlier this year.

However, she says she only received that form July 24, along with a notice that her payments would be cut off if the form wasn’t filled out in three days.

“Many of the people are only getting that form when they learn of the cuts,” Margaret Van Nooten said.

The social rights worker at Project Genesis, a community group in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood that advocates for lower-income residents, said some of her clients who are seniors have the same complaint as Hudson.

“We are seeing seniors, and many are vulnerable, low-income seniors for whom the Guaranteed Income Supplement is perhaps more than half their income, we’re seeing them lose that major part of their income without warning,” she told Global News, sitting in her office across from a colleague trying to help a distraught Falia Estrada.

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The senior’s OAS payment including the GIS was over $1,500 until a few days ago when her payment dropped to $500.

“How will I live with that?” she asked rhetorically, fighting back tears. “My rent is $320, my phone is $80.  How about my bus pass, how about my food? I’m living alone.”

Van Nooten wonders if there’s a staffing problem at the government departments responsible.

“I think there has been additional delays because of the pandemic so it’s causing a lot of hardship for many low income seniors,” she pointed out.

Employment and Social Development Canada was unable to respond to a request for explanation by deadline Tuesday, but a spokesperson did say they would try to by Wednesday.

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© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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