Factors That May Affect Welfare Eligibility (21:V)
A. Family Units, Dependency, and Spousal Relationships
Under the welfare legislation, assistance is paid not to individuals, but rather to “family units”. Family units are deemed under the legislation to include a welfare applicant or recipient, his or her “dependent children” and his or her “spouse.”Note that “spouse” and “dependent child” are defined in the legislation.
If two or more people are considered to be part of the same family unit, their combined assets and monthly income will be used to determine their ongoing eligibility for assistance and their monthly benefit amount will be calculated as a lump sum for a family unit of that size.
See the definitions of “applicant”, “dependent”, “dependent child”“family unit”, and “recipient” in s 1 of the EAA and the definition of “spouse” in s 1.1. The same definitions exist in the corresponding sections of the EAPWDA.
A "family unit" includes a person who is applying for or getting welfare as well as that person's dependants. A "dependant" can be a spouse or partner living with the applicant and can also be a child. Note: other relatives, such as parents or adult children, are not considered dependants, even if they live with and rely upon the applicant.
To be considered a "dependent child", a child must:
- Be under 19 years old (unless the child is 18 and getting PWD benefits);
- Rely on the applicant for food, shelter, and clothing; AND
- Live with the applicant for more than half of each month.
If roommates do not want to be considered a family unit, they must be able to show that they do not fit the definition of “spouse” in s 1.1 of the EAA and EAPWDA. In determining whether roommates fit the definition in s 1.1, MSDSI may look at common-sense indicia of a spousal relationship such as:
- whether the parties have separate bedrooms;
- whether they have separate bank accounts, divide bills, etc.;
- whether have they acknowledged a common law or sexual relationship as existing between them, either socially or for any other purpose; *whether they share household responsibilities on a consistent basis, i.e. childcare, meal preparation, laundry, shopping, house cleaning, etc.; and
- whether either party has an ongoing sexual relationship with another person.
B. Failure to Meet Employment-Related Obligations
Under EAA s 13, EAPWDA, s 12, EAR s 29 and EAPWDR s 25, MSDSI may reduce assistance (for households that include dependent children) or declare a household ineligible for a period set by regulation (for households with no dependent children) if a recipient or adult dependant who has employment-related obligations:
- a. fails to accept suitable employment;
- b. voluntarily leaves employment without just cause;
- c. is dismissed from employment for just cause; or
- d. fails to demonstrate reasonable efforts to search for suitable employment.
“Suitable employment” is not defined in the income assistance legislation, but a past MSDSI operational directive defined suitable employment as “available employment which the person is able to perform, that pays at least the minimum wage, and which will maximize the person’s independence from assistance”.
“Just cause” for leaving employment is not defined in the legislation, but the MSDSI Online Resource states that just cause for leaving employment includes:
- a. a physical or mental condition which precludes maintaining employment;
- b. sexual or other harassment;
- c. discrimination;
- d. dangerous working conditions;
- e. following a spouse to new employment;
- f. leaving an abusive or violent domestic situation;
- g. having to care for a child or other immediate family member who has a mental or physical condition which requires the person to care for them; or h.reasonable assurance of another job.
If the Ministry decides that the person was fired for just cause or quit a job without just cause, penalties may apply, including:
- If the person does not have dependent children, the Ministry may not allow the person to apply for income assistance or hardship assistance for two calendar months.
- If the person does have dependent children, the Ministry can allow them to apply for income assistance or hardship assistance, but the benefits will be reduced by $100 for two months.
NOTE: The details of the sanctions that MSDSI may apply under EAA s 13, EAPWDA s 12, EAR s 29, and EAPWDR s 25 are summarized in the Online Resource in a table at http://www.gov.bc.ca/meia/online_resource/verification_and_eligibility/sanctions/policy.html or indexed under Sanctions/Policy/Reasons for Sanctions.
The above employment-related sanctions do not apply to recipients listed in EAR s 29(4).
C. Failing to Accept or Pursue Income or Assets or Disposing of Property
Section 14 of the EAA (s 13 of the EAPWDA) and s 31 of the EAR (s 27 of the EAPWDR) outline the sanctions that MSDSI may apply to applicants who fail to pursue income or assets or who dispose of property for inadequate consideration. NOTE: The details of the sanctions that MSDSI may apply under EAA s 14 (s 13 of the EAPWDA) and EAR s 31 (s 27 of the EAPWDR) are summarized in the Online Resource in a table at http://www.gov.bc.ca/meia/online_resource/verification_and_eligibility/sanctions/policy.html as above, or indexed under Sanctions/Policy/Reasons for Sanctions. D.Conviction or Civil Judgment for Welfare Fraud As of Sept 1, 2015 , a person is no longer ineligible for income assistance, PPMB assistance or disability assistance ONLY because of either: ·a conviction under the Criminal Code in relation to obtaining welfare benefits by fraud or false or misleading representation (i.e. lifetime ban repealed); ·a conviction of a statutory offence under the EAA or EAPWDA (or prior welfare legislation); OR ·a declaration of ineligibility by MSDSI following MSDSI obtaining a civil judgment against them for a welfare overpayment. People convicted of such offences either before or after September 1, 2015, or with declarations of ineligibility related to a civil judgment, can now qualify for regular income assistance, PPMB or disability assistance, if they meet all other eligibility requirements. These family units are liable to repay the government, under section 27 of the EAA (s 18 of the EAPWDA), the amount or value of the overpayment that was the subject of the Criminal Code conviction and/or conviction under the EAA/EAPWDA and/or civil judgment. This amount is known as an “offence overpayment.”Section 89 and 89.1 of the EAR (74 and 74.1 of the EAPWDA) detail a minimum monthly welfare benefit deduction and repayment structure that applies to an “offence overpayment,” as well as the exemptions from those deductions. The basic rule is a reduction of $100 per month reduction in welfare benefits for each person in a family unit who has an “offence overpayment.”Where a person was convicted under the Criminal Code, that deduction continues until the amount of the overpayment is repaid in full. Where a person was convicted of a statutory offence under the EAA or EAPDA, that deduction continues for: 1.12 months for a first conviction (unless the overpayment is repaid in less than 12 months) 2.24 months for second conviction, (unless the overpayment is repaid in less than 24 months); and 3.For a third or subsequent conviction, until the amount of the third or subsequent overpayment is repaid. There is some degree of ministerial discretion to waive the minimum $100 repayment requirements in a given benefit month. The minister may waive the repayment for the following reasons: ·The minister is satisfied that the family unit is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless