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Plain language description of changes to PWD benefits

Summary: 
In June 2012, the Province of BC announced improvements to the way PWD benefits are calculated. Most of the changes took effect on October 1, 2012. Below is a plain language description of some of the major changes.

Download the document as a PDF here.

BCACL worked with our community partners to produce a paper that helped inform the new changes. Read the Disability Without Poverty Network's paper here. We will continue working together to improve and increase PWD benefits.

Changes to earnings exemptions and asset limits for people receiving PWD benefits:

For more detailed information about changes to PWD benefits (including information about changes to medical items), visit the Disability Alliance BC website.

Increasing the asset limits for individuals to $5,000 (up from $3,000)

This means that you can own up to $5000 without having your benefits clawed back. Assets could be any money that is in a person’s name – it would also include RRSP’s, savings, stocks, etc – but does NOT include a trust, a house, or a car. Visit this link for more information about assets: http://www.gov.bc.ca/meia/online_resource/verification_and_eligibility/assets/policy.html

Increasing the asset limits for couples and families to $10,000 (up from $5,000)

Couples and families can now own twice as much as before (when their assets are added up together). This also applies to couples where only one person is receiving PWD benefits. Visit this link for more information about assets: http://www.gov.bc.ca/meia/online_resource/verification_and_eligibility/assets/policy.html

Increasing the earnings exemption for singles on PWD to $800 per month (up from $500) 

This means that you can earn more money per month from working before your benefits are affected. It used to be $500 and it is now $800.

Increasing the earnings exemption for couples who both have the PWD designation to $1,600 per month (up from $750)

This means that couples (when both people are receiving PWD benefits) can now work the same amount as individuals (non-couples) without having their benefits affected. The amount that a couple can earn (when their wages are combined) more than doubled, from $750 to $1600. If only one person in a couple is working, the single income is also exempt up to $1600.

Increasing the non-discretionary trust exemption lifetime limit to $200,000 (up from $100,000)

This means that you can have twice as much money as before in a trust before it affects your benefits. A trust is an account that has money in it that has been set aside for you to use in the future. Somebody else, called a trustee, technically owns the money, but is only allowed to use it to pay for things that you need or want.

Increasing the trust disbursement exemption for “promoting independence” to $8,000 per year (up from $5,484) and allowing the person on PWD to decide how this money can be spent to promote their independence (rather than MSD)

If you are receiving a trust with money in it for you, you are allowed to use a certain amount per year without it affecting your benefits. That amount was increased from $5484 to $8000. The rules about using the trust were also changed. There used to be a list of things you had to use the money for, to “promote independence.” The government changed the rules, so you can now choose how you spend that money to promote your independence.

Exempting income tax refunds (previously tax refunds have been exempt to the earning exemption limit).

If you receive a tax refund when you submit your taxes, it will not affect your benefits. The tax refund used to be considered "earned income" so the Government would apply the earnings exemption to it, which could affect your benefits. Tax refunds are now considered neither income nor assets.

Reducing the wait period for earnings exemptions to one month for new applicants, and eliminating the waiting period for PWDs returning to assistance (previously the wait period has been 3 months)  

This means that you won’t have to wait as long to start earning your own money while you receive PWD benefits. If you are applying for PWD for the first time, for the first month your benefits will be reduced for every dollar you earn. After one month, you will be able to earn up to $800 before your benefits are affected. Before, you had to wait three months before the $800 earnings exemption would kick in.

Also, If you stop receiving PWD for a while and then start receiving PWD again, you will be able to earn $800 per month immediately. 

If you have more questions about PWD benefits, contact:

Karen De Long, BC Association for Community Living
604-777-9100 ext 530
kdelong@inclusionbc.org

or

Disability Alliance BC (formerly BC Coalition for People with Disabilities)
Visit the website for specific contacts: http://www.disabilityalliancebc.org/contacts.htm?RD=1