The federal government is expected to spend more than $ 146 billion, and an additional $ 2.5 billion, on measures announced Tuesday to give seniors a non-taxable top-up payment to help manage the additional costs associated with COVID-19.
The Liberals have already indicated that they will extend a $ 73 billion federal wage subsidy program beyond its end date in early June, and have been pressured to extend the Canadian emergency benefit by $ 35 billion which has so far paid $ 30.5 billion to 7.8 million people.
Trudeau said the government would remain flexible to provide Canadians with the support they need, when they need it, but did not say which programs would be extended, or how much.
He said the government is considering short-term support needed with locks in place to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
“We want to get through this, we want to get through this quickly, but we know we have to support people as soon as we cross and that’s what this extra help for the elderly will help,” said Trudeau.
Seniors’ assistance will take the form of a payment of $ 300 to the more than six million people who receive Old Age Security and an additional $ 200 to the 2.2 million people who also receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement .
At the same time, the government has announced that it will not suspend OAS and GIS payments this summer to seniors who forget to file their taxes on time, but has warned that the information will be needed by October.
Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said the Liberals arrived at the extra numbers by examining the additional distribution costs with limits on prescriptions, the additional travel costs for seniors avoiding public transportation due to health concerns and delivery costs for groceries.
“All of the small amounts, but it adds up,” she said.
The $ 2.5 billion measure will pay out 6.7 million seniors and will add to the $ 59.5 billion the government has budgeted for seniors benefits this year.
The government has said it expects payments to be made in the coming weeks.
The Canadian Association of Retired Persons has said that the additional money, while useful, does not address the concerns of seniors about their retirement security.
The organization asked the government to renounce the compulsory withdrawal amounts from registered retirement income funds, beyond the 25% drop already announced, and to eliminate the withholding tax on RRSP withdrawals. this year.
Schulte said the government would monitor the financial markets for the rest of the calendar year before making any decisions, since most seniors do not need to withdraw their RRIFs before the end of the year.
NDP Seniors Spokesman Scott Duvall said his party was “largely disappointed” with Liberal ad hoc assistance for seniors’ expenses, calling on the government to continually increase OAS and of the SRG.
Likewise, the Liberals were under pressure to extend this month’s one-time supplement to the Canada Child Benefit for the duration of the economic crisis. The payment of $ 300 per child arrives at the end of next week.
“The pandemic and its economic effects will last longer than expected and this benefit has proven to be an effective income security tool for parents and guardians who have access to it,” wrote the anti-poverty group Campaign 2000 in a open letter to Trudeau.
“Complements to the CWB should last for the duration of the pandemic response and be a key mechanism in the recovery plan.”
Any additional spending measures would further compound this year’s federal deficit.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer said in a report late last month that the federal deficit for the year is likely to reach $ 252.1 billion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic alone spending measures to date.
Yves Giroux told a committee of the House of Commons on Tuesday that the estimate was optimistic.
“I would like to say more about this, we do not have details on some of these measures,” said Giroux, citing the financing program announced Monday targeting large companies, or the extension of the wage subsidy.
“It is very difficult to estimate what is likely to be a deficit as details are lacking for some of these potentially very costly measures. “
He said the Liberals should soon be providing a financial update so taxpayers will know how much the government expects to spend on COVID-19 aid, the size of the federal debt this year and the short and middle term.