B.C.: more support for homeowners, people with disabilities, and home support services

B.C.: more support for homeowners, people with disabilities, and home support services

Homeowner grant threshold increases

VICTORIA – British Columbians who own homes valued up to $1.2 million may be eligible to receive a full home owner grant this year, while a partial grant may be available if the home is valued above this threshold.

The home owner grant provides modest property tax relief to those who need it most. Last year, this program returned nearly $800 million to B.C. residents. For 2016, more than 91% of homes are below the threshold.

BC Assessment estimates the values of all homes based on their market value on July 1 each year. For homes valued below the threshold, the basic grant can reduce residential property taxes on an owner’s principal residence by up to $570.

An additional grant up to $275 is available for homeowners who are aged 65 or over, who qualify under the persons with disabilities category, or who are eligible to receive certain war-veteran allowances. The northern and rural home owner benefit provides an additional $200 in property tax relief to households outside the Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Capital Regional Districts.

Low-income homeowners who would have received the additional home owner grant except for the high value of their home can apply for a low-income grant supplement.

Homeowners who face difficulty keeping up with rising property assessments in B.C. may also be eligible to defer all or a portion of their property taxes. The property tax deferment program provides low-interest loans that allow eligible homeowners to defer payment of annual property taxes until their home is sold or becomes part of an estate. This program is available to owners who are 55 or older, surviving spouses of any age, and persons with disabilities. Families who are financially supporting children may also qualify.


Asset limit for disability assistance increases

As of Dec. 1, 2015, people receiving disability assistance can now receive regular gifts from family, friends, and community groups, their assistance from the government being affected.

Allowing repeated gifts of cash within the asset limit with no impact on eligibility for assistance, the changes also include raising the asset limit from $5,000 to $100,000, and from $10,000 to $200,000 for families where two people with the PWD designation receive disability assistance.

There is also more flexibility in spending money from trust funds, according to the provincial government.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive reaction to these major changes for people with disabilities,” said Michelle Stilwell, B.C.’s minister of Social Development and Social Innovation. “B.C. now has the most generous gifts and assets policies in Canada – meaning financial security, independence and peace of mind for people receiving disability assistance and their families.”

Jane Dyson with Disability Alliance BC said, “Some of our clients are struggling to believe the new policy on gifts is true. It means some folks will enjoy a happier holiday season this year, and over the year many more will benefit from this new flexibility.”


Wage increase for funded independent living support program

VICTORIA – Health Minister Terry Lake today has announced an increase in hourly rates for the Choice in Supports for Independent Living (CSIL) program, meaning more choices when it comes to care options for British Columbians with significant disabilities.

CSIL is a self-managed model of care where individuals receive funds directly to hire their own workers to provide home support services. This includes help with daily living activities such as getting up and around, meal planning, lifts and transfers, bathing and grooming.

“The CSIL program empowers clients by allowing them to hand pick the workers who provide these vital services,” said Lake. “This rate increase will help them attract and keep support staff through competitive wages, allowing individuals to stay independent in their own homes for as long as possible.”

The hourly rate will increase 5.5% over five years:

* Jan. 1, 2016: $29.80 per hour (retroactive to April 1, 2015)

* April 1, 2016: $29.94 per hour

* April 1, 2017: $30.39 per hour

* April 1, 2018: $30.85 per hour

* Feb. 1, 2019: $31.16 per hour

People in the CSIL program receive funding each month from their regional health authority. The number of hours funded varies by person and is based on a clinical assessment by the client’s health-care team.

CSIL employers assume full responsibility for covering wages and costs for advertising, recruiting and hiring a bookkeeper for financial reporting.

“On behalf of CSIL employers, I thank the provincial government for working with our organization to facilitate these rate increases, which we believe are the building blocks for ensuring equal wages and parity between CSIL and agency employees,” said Ken M. Kramer, QC, principal with KMK Law Corporation and co-chair of the CSIL Funding Working Group and CSIL employer.

British Columbia has 976 people who receive home support through CSIL, making up approximately 2% of all home support clients, but accounting for approximately 23% of total home-care support service hours.