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Changes to ODSP Part of Ontario’s Spring Budget

adult child disability henson trustOntario’s recently announced Spring 2017 Budget included some very welcome, and long overdue, changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program (‘ODSP’). Although seen by many as not going far enough, it is hoped that these changes represent a step in the right direction.

ODSP Program Rate Increased

A 2% increase to ODSP program rates was announced. The increase, to begin in September 2017, was introduced in an effort to keep pace with the rising cost of inflation. This increase also applies to a variety of the other benefits available to those receiving ODSP.

In practical terms, this increase will translate into a $23 per month increase for an individual receiving ODSP. This brings the total basic needs and shelter benefits to $1,151 per month for an individual.

Asset Limits Increased

Under the current ODSP rules, an individual receiving ODSP benefits is allowed to own $5,000 in cash and liquid assets without their benefits being affected. This amount is $7,500 for a couple. Starting in January 2018, the cash and liquid asset levels will increase to $40,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a couple.

Many were hopeful that Ontario would follow British Columbia’s lead in increasing the allowable asset limit to $100,000. Although Ontario’s limit falls a little short, the increase will hopefully translate into a positive impact for individuals and families receiving ODSP benefits. They will now have the opportunity to accumulate modest savings without affecting their ODSP benefits.

Certain Gifts Not Considered Income

Presently, an ODSP recipient is entitled to receive up to $6,000 in gifts or voluntary payments for any purpose from any source in a 12-month period. This will be increased to $10,000 in September 2017.

Certain Gifts Not Considered Income

Under the current rules, many of the gifts which an ODSP recipient receives do have a direct impact on their ODSP benefits. However, also beginning this September, gifts received for a certain, specific purposes will be considered exempt from income. This will include gifts for buying a vehicle or a principal residence and gifts to pay for first and last month’s rent. It is anticipated that this change will enable the families and friends of those receiving ODSP to help their loved ones with no impact to ODSP benefits.

Looking Forward

 The Budget also announced the continuation of the following positive initiatives by the Ontario government:

  • The proposed 3-year Basic Income Pilot Program will move forward. The goal of the Program is to determine whether a basic minimum income helps to better the lives of those living below the poverty line.
  • The Income Security Reform Working Group formed last year will continue its work and is expected to make recommendations for changes this summer. This is part of the Ontario government commitment to improving the income security system for the citizens of Ontario including ODSP.

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