There has been some confusion about how the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CSRB) income programs will affect the income of Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients during the COVID-19 crisis.

For all ODSP applicants and recipients, CERB and CSRB payments must be reported, and are treated similarly to employment earnings:

  • CERB: The first $200, and 50 per cent of each additional dollar, received in a month is exempt.
  • CSRB: For adult part-time postsecondary students and recent postsecondary graduates, the first $200, and 50 per cent of each additional dollar, received in a month is exempt.

CSRB income is ODSP-exempt for students under 18 years of age, and for adult students in full-time secondary or postsecondary.

Some people who receive CERB or CSRB might become financially ineligible for ODSP income support during the COVID crisis, but they will not lose their health benefits or case management supports.

There is also an Emergency Benefit available for ODSP recipients who have additional expenses related to the COVID-19 outbreak but who do not receive CERB income (with some exceptions). These people can be eligible for monthly payments of $100 for a single person or $200 for a family until July 2020. These funds can be used for a broad range of needs due to COVID‑19, including cleaning supplies, non-medical transportation, food, or clothing. Eligible people who received this benefit in March or April will automatically continue to receive it in May, June, and July.

The federal CERB provides about $2,000 per month ($500 weekly) to people who have lost their income due to the COVID pandemic. As of March 2020, the maximum amount available through ODSP is $1,169 a month for a single person; couples and people with children get more.

An estimated 75,000 Ontarians with disabilities receive ODSP and qualify for the federal benefit, since they earned at least $5,000 in 2019. Depending what they earned, some will get more money in their pockets than they did before the pandemic, while others will receive less. In most cases, ODSP payments will be reduced by $900 a month, according to Steps to Justice, a partnership of leading justice organizations.

ODSP recipients must be sure they qualify for CERB or CSRB before applying. Lawyer Arash Ghiassi says, “The issue of overpayment is an issue we’re hearing more and more about. People are being penalized for applying for the CERB and then it turns out they don’t qualify for it and have to pay it back.” People repay twice – once to the federal government, and once as a partial claw back from the province.