Storm clouds pass by the Peace tower and Parliament hill Tuesday August 18, 2020 in Ottawa. The parliamentary budget office says a one-time payment this fall to people with disabilities will cost the federal treasury $792 million. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Pandemic-related disability support to cost feds $792 million, PBO says

Budget office warns there may be potential fiscal impacts in subsequent years

The parliamentary budget office says a one-time payment to people with disabilities this fall will cost the federal treasury $792 million.

The majority of that amount will go to about 1.67 million people in payments of up to $600, which the Liberals say are aimed at offsetting any extra costs linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total cost should hit federal books this year, but the budget office warns there may be potential fiscal impacts in subsequent years.

The first legislative push to provide the special payments failed in June when the minority Liberal government couldn’t gain opposition support for a wider spending bill.

A few weeks later, a compromise was struck whereby the Liberals expanded eligibility for the payments to also include veterans.

Payments will max out at $600, drop to $300 for any recipients who receive old age security benefits, and fall to $100 for low-income seniors who receive OAS and the guaranteed income supplement.

The report from the budget watchdog Wednesday notes its estimate on the number of people eligible to receive the payments could be thrown off a bit by a separate part of the federal response to the pandemic.

That is because one of the requirements for payments is to be eligible for the disability tax credit, or having applied for the credit by Sept. 25.

The PBO report says the government’s extension for filing personal income tax returns could reduce the rate at which people recertify for the credit, but calls it a minor source of uncertainty.

The budget office has been independently tracking federal spending through the pandemic to provide its own analysis over the accuracy of government projections.

It updated one of those projections this week in regarding to a special paid leave for federal employees, known as pay code 699.

ALSO READ: Feds roll out $2 billion to fund return-to-school safety amid pandemic

The policy gives federal workers paid time off for emergencies such as having to quarantine with COVID-19 or to care for children or other dependants, and doesn’t require them to use up vacation or sick days first.

Adding in data from June, the budget office estimates that paid leave has cost the government $828 million since March, inclusive of pension and other benefits. That works out to an average of $3,430 per worker who accessed the leave over that time.

The figures also include estimates for departments that haven’t provided data to the budget office.

The report says the number of hours claimed under the policy is “almost certainly an underestimation of the loss of work hours due to the pandemic.”

Use of the policy has dropped from a peak of 72,700 federal workers in April to just over 43,300 in June, the PBO says. The Canada Revenue Agency continues to have the largest share of workers using the leave.

“The Canada Revenue Agency was able to continue many of its core operations despite claiming by far the most hours of 699 leave. This is due to a strong culture of monitoring time spent on specific activities,” the budget office wrote on its website.

“It is therefore highly likely that other federal organizations not completing core operating functions like meeting legislated timelines for access-to-information requests are severely under-reporting the extent of hours of work lost due to the pandemic.”

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusDisability

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

60 middle school students in one Abbotsford classroom? It’s true, stunned parent is told

Parent says she was in disbelief when her son told her he was in a class with 60 other kids

Three Abbotsford candidates so far come forward for provincial election

Mike de Jong, Simon Gibson and Bruce Banman to toss hats in ring

COVID-19 testing lineup wraps around block in Chilliwack

Testing lineup includes seniors, children and their parents as demand seems to surge

Shots fired into unoccupied vehicle in Abbotsford

Incident occurred Saturday night on Upper Maclure Road

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

Former worker at Surrey brewery claims he was bullied on the job

Human rights complaint to be heard against Surrey’s Central City Brewers and Distillers Ltd.

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Most Read