WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28: This morning I wish to inform members of the public, in particular seniors, who may be experiencing financial hardship, that the Government will be making changes to the Financial Assistance Regulations 2004 to enable seniors who are homeowners or who have an interest in property to be assessed for financial assistance benefits.

Some will recall that on the 1st April 2011 the Financial Assistance Regulations 2004 came into effect and changed eligibility criteria such that any applicant with assets exceeding $5,000.00 (inclusive of interest in real property) would not be eligible to receive financial assistance.  There were 34 seniors who owned property and were receiving financial assistance at the time the legislation changed on 1st April 2011. Those seniors were “grandfathered in” and allowed to continue to receive financial assistance for one year up until 31st March 2012.

The Department of Financial Assistance has monitored the situation over the past year and is aware that some of our seniors are experiencing financial hardship because they are ineligible to receive financial assistance benefits due to the fact that they are property owners. Since the legislative changes went into effect, it has been observed that there has been an adverse impact on seniors who are homeowners or who have an interest in real property, even though the changes in the law made at that time were not intended to disadvantage such persons.

It was observed that one hundred and twenty-three (123) seniors applied to the Department of Financial Assistance during the eleven month period from April 2011 to February 2012.  Seventeen (17) of the seniors who applied for financial assistance (approximately 14%) were found to be ineligible to receive financial assistance benefits because they own or have an interest in property.

In the November 2011 Speech from the Throne Government indicated that it would review the eligibility criteria for financial assistance in order to ensure that the mere fact of home ownership by seniors does not justify denial of financial assistance.

Having reviewed the matter, Government has decided to amend the Financial Assistance Regulations 2004 to allow seniors who are homeowners or who have an interest in real property to be eligible to be assessed for applicable financial assistance benefits. To that end, I am pleased to announce that, as Minister responsible for financial assistance, I have caused a notice to be published in today’s Official Gazette regarding the coming into operation of the Financial Assistance Amendment Regulations 2012.  These most recent amendments to the Financial Assistance Regulations 2004 will take effect on 1st April 2012 and will mean that persons 65 years or older will not have their interest in real property factored into consideration by the Department of Financial Assistance when calculating the value of assets for purposes of eligibility to receive financial assistance benefits.

Thank You.