Colwood couple calls for increased financial support for seniors amid COVID-19

Colwood couple calls for increased financial support for seniors amid COVID-19
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WatchAfter only receiving $300 from the government since the start of COVID-19, a senior couple is calling for more financial support for seniors.

A Greater Victoria couple are calling on the federal government to do more for seniors as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Eric and Joyce Powell, seniors living in Colwood, are fed up with the federal government’s lack of support for pensioners, especially after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s address on Wednesday.

“He kept repeating, ‘to all Canadians,'” said Eric. “Last time I checked, senior citizens are Canadian citizens, so we’re the forgotten group.”

The Powell’s are currently living off the Canada Pension Plan, and say since the start of the pandemic, all the only additional money they have received from the federal government is a one-time $300 payment.

“Your paying for groceries, essentials, etcetera, a lot more, so naturally it digs into your budget,” said Eric.

“Our Hydro bill has gone up $20 since the pandemic because we wash everything that comes into our house,” adds Joyce.

The couple says they haven’t received anything from the provincial government either and claim their expenses have gone up 25 per cent since March.

Isobel Mackenzie, a seniors advocate, says the Powell’s experience is not uncommon among those in their demographic amid COVID-19.

“Unlike the working population, where the impact has been because their income has dropped or ceased, with seniors, it’s because there are added expenses that they didn’t have before that they have now,” said Mackenzie.

According to Mackenzie, one-third of seniors in the province are receiving the federal government’s Guaranteed Income Supplement — tax-free monthly income available to low-income Old Age Security pensioners.

She said GIS payments are less than what someone working a minimum wage job would receive, meaning many seniors are struggling to get through the month as costs such and delivery fees have increased.

“About a one-third of B.C. seniors are on [Guarunteed Income Suppliment] which means their income is less than a minimum wage job would be,” explained Mackenzie. “So when they have to pay for their grocery delivery when they can’t get on a program, that’s a big impact for them.”

On top of extra living expenses, many seniors are taking extra precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19, like getting the high-dose flu shot, which isn’t cheap.

“The high dose vaccine is $84 per person,” said Eric, whose doctor recommended he get the shot. “Why does the provincial government not step in and get it covered for all seniors?”

With a provincial election underway, the B.C. Liberals have promised free flu shots, if elected, but the Powell’s say that wouldn’t alleviate their concerns.

“We worry what’s going to happen if this stays for a year, two years, where are we going to be in three, four, five years if we deplete our savings just to live?” said Joyce.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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