Seniors advocates are welcoming a $500 one-time payment from the federal government but are seeking more support to ensure long-term security.

The government announced May 12 that seniors eligible for the old age security pension would get a $300 payment, with an additional $200 for seniors eligible for the guaranteed income supplement (GIS).

But the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP) said although these are positive, they do not address the organization’s concerns with how COVID-19 has hit retirement security. The organization is advocating for measures such as waiving mandatory registered retirement income fund (RRIF) withdrawals and eliminating the withholding tax on registered retirement saving plan (RRSP) withdrawals this year.

“The official statement of the supports today for seniors are welcome, but they don’t directly address many of the concerns relayed to the government on retirement security and access to liquidity,” CARP Chapter 54 Haliburton Highlands president Jon Dannewald said. “We’re looking to have as many tools as possible to maximize cash flow and protect our retirement. A onetime payment is welcome, but it’s not a solution.”

The federal government also highlighted other help it has provided during the pandemic, including a payment through the GST, as well as funding for community organizations providing seniors programming. In the Haliburton area, that’s included the likes of the Central Food Network, Rotary Club of Haliburton’s Good Food Box and SIRCH Community Services, each receiving between $3,000-$5,000 through the New Horizons for Seniors Program.

The government has also lowered RRIF withdrawals by 25 per cent.

“The Government of Canada will continue to monitor and respond to the health, social, and economic impacts of COVID-19. We stand ready to take additional actions as needed to support all Canadians, including seniors, and stabilize the economy,” the prime minister’s office said in a press release.

Dannewald said he does not know if the government will be receptive to CARP’s proposals. CARP has said stock market plunges have hurt retirement savings and rising costs for things such as groceries will hurt seniors in the long-term. Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph have not changed their forecast of a two to four per cent increase in grocery prices for 2020, but said in a March 31 update factors such as more safety practices at grocery stores and online purchasing could drive costs up over time.

“Our costs are going up but our retirement income is not,” Dannewald said.

But Dannewald said other government measures have helped ease the burden, such as the province keeping hydro rates to off-peak pricing. He added local programming is also helping, such as food banks, which the local CARP chapter has donated to.

“Locally, I think we’re in pretty good shape,” he said.

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