A resident sits in her room at a seniors' residence in Montreal, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. The federal government will be providing up to $500 in a one-time payment to eligible Canadian seniors, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Federal government to offer up to $500 to seniors for one-time pandemic relief

The federal government will inject nearly $2.5 billion into a one-time payment program designed to help Canadian seniors feeling the financial pain of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

Seniors who are eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension will automatically receive a $300 payment, and the federal government will send an additional $200 to seniors eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), Trudeau said.

The federal government will also invest an additional $20 million in the New Horizons for Seniors Program, which funds various community projects for seniors, Trudeau said.

“There’s no question that COVID-19 has been taking its toll on seniors both emotionally and financially,” Trudeau said.

‘Uncomfortable truths’

The government is taking action to alleviate some of the stress the seniors may be feeling, he said, adding that there is a lot more work to be done not only to find short-term fixes, but long-term solutions.

“COVID-19 has exposed some uncomfortable truths about our society, including how we care for seniors in Canada,” Trudeau said.

“We’ve seen heartbreaking tragedies in long-term care facilities and nursing homes right across the country. Overworked staff. Understaffed residences. Grieving families. There are serious, underlying challenges facing these facilities.”

While acknowledging that long-term care facilities and nursing homes fall under provincial jurisdiction, Trudeau said the federal government will be there to help the provinces find lasting solutions.

Marissa Lennox, chief policy officer at the seniors advocacy group CARP, welcomed the announcement but urged the government to do more to address the retirement security crisis caused by COVID-19.

“The one-time tax-free payments of $300 and $200 for those who qualify for OAS and GIS, respectively, will serve to support immediate needs around grocery delivery and additional prescription medication costs, but are not solutions for beyond the short term. It’s unclear how long this will last,” she said.

With files from CBC News

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