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Recoveries


Policy

Authority to Recover: December 5, 2005

Debt Transfer

Types of Assistance that may be Recovered: August 1, 2015

Methods for Recovery of Assistance: August 1, 2015

Assignments/Consents To Deduct: September 1, 2015

Repayment Agreements – Repayable Benefits by Deduction from Ongoing Assistance: July 29, 2013

Promise to Repay – Recovery of Repayable Benefits at a Future Date: July 29, 2013

Overpayments: January 19, 2015

Offence Overpayments: August 1, 2015

Exemption from an Offence Overpayment Deduction: August 1, 2015

Exemption for Recovery of Debt from a Comforts Allowance: August 1, 2015

Asset Notification: October 27, 2006

Collection Action: October 27, 2006

Litigation: October 27, 2006

Court Orders: August 15, 2008

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Authority to Recover: December 5, 2005
December 5, 2005

Section 28 of the Employment and Assistance Act and section 19 of the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act permit the ministry to recover client debts to the ministry without a formal agreement, either by way of deduction from future assistance, collection action or through court action. Based on the principles of administrative fairness, the ministry's policy is to make efforts to inform clients when they have a debt to the ministry and the particulars of the debt before taking any action to recover the debt.

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Debt Transfer
April 16, 2004

Debt owed to the ministry remains with the original case and must not be transferred from one case to another when clients have changed family units or cases or are no longer in a dependency or spousal relationship.

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Types of Assistance that may be Recovered: August 1, 2015
August 1, 2015

The ministry may recover amounts paid to or on behalf of clients for any of the following:

  • assistance while awaiting payment of income from other agencies
  • assistance that they were not eligible to receive (overpayments)
  • repayable supplements, for example, security deposit supplement, utility security deposit supplement, co-op housing share purchase supplement, replacement of lost family bonus supplement, repayable warrant supplement due to hardship, repayable warrant transportation supplement [see Related Links – Security Deposits, Utility Security Deposits, Co-op Share Purchase Supplement, Family Bonus Supplement, Warrants]
  • repayable hardship assistance

For information on recovering repayable hardship assistance, see Related Links – Eligibility for Hardship Assistance – Procedures – Table: Hierarchy of Hardship Categories.

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Methods for Recovery of Assistance: August 1, 2015
August 1, 2015

The ministry may recover assistance paid to a client through any of the following documents or processes:

  • assignment or consent to deduct a client's future funds from another agency
  • repayment agreement – recovery of repayable benefits by deduction from ongoing assistance
  • a promise to repay – recovery of repayable benefits at a future date
  • overpayment notification – recovery of overpaid benefits by deduction from ongoing assistance
  • collection action – action taken by government and non-government agencies to recover amounts owed by individuals who are no longer in receipt of assistance
  • litigation or prosecution
  • deduction for offence overpayments

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Assignments/Consents To Deduct: September 1, 2015
September 1, 2015

A signed assignment or consent to deduct form authorizes a transfer of funds that are payable to a client from another agency directly to the ministry. Assignments and consents to deduct prevent duplication of payments to a client for the same period of time by enabling the province to recover assistance that is issued to a client while he or she is awaiting retroactive income from the other agency. By accepting the assignment or consent to deduct from the client, the agency accepts the ministry's claim to the money referred to in the document and transfers the amount that is payable to the client directly to the province (that is, either the amount of assistance issued for the same time period or the other agency's payment, whichever is the lesser).

To assign or consent to deduct future income, it must first be clearly established that funds may be forthcoming from another agency in the future. When a client or dependant is potentially eligible for future income from another agency, an assignment or consent to deduct form must be completed prior to issuing assistance. The assignment or consent to deduct must be signed by the person awaiting the income.

All of the following are examples of anticipated income from other agencies for which assignments or consents to deduct are taken:

  • Canada Pension Plan benefits (CPP Retirement Pension, CPP Disability Benefits, CPP Child of Disabled Contributor Benefits and Survivor Benefits)
  • Employment Insurance benefits
  • Veterans Affairs Canada benefits
  • Workers' Compensation Board payments (WorkSafeBC)

[For more information on taking assignments or consents for specific types of income, see Related Links – Pursuing Income.]

Assignment of Employment Insurance (EI) Benefits

The objective of the EI Assignment of Benefits (AOB) program is to eliminate dual payments of hardship assistance and EI benefits.

According to an agreement between the ministry and Service Canada, the ministry will be reimbursed for the issued Awaiting EI Benefits hardship category through direct deductions from clients' EI benefits when there is:

  • EI entitlement for the same week for which hardship assistance was paid, and
  • consent from the applicant obtained in writing prior to the payment of hardship assistance. Applicants provide their consent by signing an EI Assignment of Benefits (AOB) form (HR2528) each time they receive hardship Awaiting EI Benefits. [see Related Links – Awaiting EI Benefits]. The EI AOB identifies the amount of hardship assistance issued weekly (weekly assignment) and minimum weekly living allowance (MWLA). The weekly assignment is calculated by dividing the amount of hardship assistance issued by the number of Sundays within the assignment period. The MWLA is calculated by dividing the maximum monthly amount of income or disability assistance for the specific family unit by 4.33. The weekly assignment and MWLA are rounded down to the nearest dollar.

MWLA applies every week of the assignment period. This ensures Service Canada deducts only the portion of clients' EI weekly benefits that exceeds the MWLA to reimburse the ministry for the hardship provided to clients eligible for EI.

Once the completed EI AOB is received by Service Canada, the ministry cannot adjust amounts already determined on the EI AOB.

In situations where the client's EI entitlement is close to the hardship assistance amount, it is important to issue only the minimum amount of hardship in order to decrease the repayable amount.

If a client requires additional hardship assistance while awaiting EI, another EI AOB must be completed. This additional amount will be added to the existing assignment amount. [For more information, see Related Links – Awaiting EI Benefits]

Pending Insurance Claims and Civil Litigation Awards

The settlement of insurance claims (for example, from the Insurance Corporation of BC) and other civil litigation involving compensation can be a lengthy process where the outcome cannot be predicted. The ministry does not recover assistance paid to a client while he or she is awaiting insurance claims and other civil litigation decisions. When a client indicates that he or she is pending an insurance claim decision or other civil litigation matter that potentially involves financial compensation, Employment and Assistance Workers must periodically request a written update of the status of the claim or litigation to ensure the client is still eligible for assistance.

If a person receives a financial settlement while they are a recipient of assistance, and fails to report receipt of the settlement, an overpayment due to client error occurs if assistance is issued when the client is not eligible to receive it. [For more information, see Policy – Overpayments.]

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Repayment Agreements – Repayable Benefits by Deduction from Ongoing Assistance: July 29, 2013
July 29, 2013

Repayment agreements on open cases are an agreement between the ministry and a client, where the person acknowledges the debt and agrees to begin to repay the debt immediately by deduction from his or her monthly assistance cheque. The amount of the repayment and the monthly repayment amount are included in the agreement. The minimum amount allowed for the monthly repayment is shown in Rate Table – Minimum Monthly Repayment Amounts. [see Rate Tables]

In the case of a couple, both the key player and spouse must sign a repayment agreement. However, if circumstances beyond the control of either recipient prevent both from signing the form, one signature from either the key player or spouse is sufficient to complete the repayment agreement.

Repayment agreements are used to recover debt owed to the ministry in any of the following situations:

  • a client becomes eligible for income assistance or disability assistance after hardship assistance that is repayable under the EA Regulation or the EAPWD Regulation has been issued [For more information on recovering hardship assistance that is repayable, see Related Links – Eligibility for Hardship Assistance.]
  • a supplement that is repayable under the EA Regulation or EAPWD Regulation is being issued. All of the following are examples of repayable supplements:

    • replacement of lost family bonus supplement cheque
    • co-op housing share purchase supplement
    • security deposit supplement
    • utility security deposit supplement
    • repayable warrant supplement due to hardship
    • repayable warrant transportation supplement

[For more information on recovery of these supplements, see Related Links – Family Bonus Supplement, Co-op Share Purchase Supplement, Security Deposits and Utility Security Deposit, Warrants.]

Repayment agreements should not be taken for overpayments or non-repayable supplements. [see Overpayments]

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Promise to Repay – Recovery of Repayable Benefits at a Future Date: July 29, 2013
July 29, 2013

A promise to repay is a contract between the ministry and a client, where the client acknowledges the debt and agrees to pay that debt at a later date.

In the case of a couple, both the key player and spouse must sign a promise to repay. However, if circumstances beyond the control of either recipient prevent both from signing the form, one signature from either the key player or spouse is sufficient to complete the promise to repay.

No deduction amount is included, as no repayment schedule has actually been set up.

The ministry uses a promise to repay agreement to recover debt owed to the ministry in either of the following situations:

  • hardship assistance that is repayable under the EA or EAPWD Regulation is being issued [For more information on recovering repayable hardship, see Related Links – Eligibility for Hardship Assistance.]
  • a reconsideration or an appeal supplement is being issued while awaiting the outcome of the reconsideration or appeal [For more information on recovering reconsideration or appeal supplements, see Related Links – Reconsideration and Appeal.]

[For Promise to Repay – Benefit while Awaiting Reconsideration/Appeal Decision (HR2737) form, see Forms and Letters.]

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Overpayments: January 19, 2015
January 19, 2015

Overpayments of income assistance, disability assistance, hardship assistance or supplements may result from either of the following:

  • ministry (administrative) error
  • client error (intentional or unintentional)

Amount of Overpayment

When calculating an overpayment due to undeclared income or other circumstances, the total amount of the overpayment is the amount of assistance received by the family unit which exceeds the amount they would have received if they had reported the income or other circumstance. Failure to report does not necessarily result in the family unit being found ineligible for the entire amount of assistance issued for the assistance month.

When calculating an overpayment, the following amounts are not included as assistance received in the calculation of an overpayment:

  • repayable supplements (for example, a security deposit), as a repayment for the supplement has already been added to the case
  • repayable hardship assistance (for example, hardship issued for assets in excess) because a repayment for the hardship assistance has already been added to the case
  • amounts deducted from assistance due to a sanction

When calculating an overpayment, the following amounts are included as assistance received in the calculation of the overpayment:

  • non-repayable supplements (such as diet or crisis supplements)
  • non-repayable hardship assistance (such as hardship for missing SIN)
  • amounts deducted from assistance for repayment of debt

The amount calculated as an overpayment for a benefit month must never exceed the amount of assistance issued for the benefit month.

Overpayment due to undeclared asset

When calculating an overpayment due to an undeclared asset which is in excess of the allowable asset limit, the amount of the overpayment is the lesser of:

  • the maximum value of the asset during the overpayment period, or
  • the amount of assistance received during the overpayment period

The overpayment period is the time period in which the asset exceeded the allowable asset level. [see case example in Procedures]

Overpayment due to undeclared earnings

When calculating an overpayment due to undeclared earnings, the overpayment is determined after applying any earnings exemptions that the client was eligible for at the time the earnings were received. Clients do not lose their eligibility for earnings exemptions if they do not declare their earnings. [For more information on earnings exemptions, see Related Links – Income and Exemptions]

Overpayment due to undeclared marriage-like relationship

When calculating an overpayment due to a marriage-like relationship, staff are to use the definitions of "dependent" and "spouse" in the Acts which were in effect at the time the overpayment occurred. The current definitions of "dependent" and "spouse" in the EA Act and EAPWD Act came into effect on July 1, 2006. These definitions cannot be used to calculate an overpayment for a period before July 1, 2006. [see Verification and Eligibility – Living Arrangements – Policy]

Ministry Error and Client Error Overpayments

Overpayments may occur due to client error, ministry error, or both, and may be intentional or unintentional. Whether due to ministry or client error, all overpayments must be reviewed, recorded, and tracked. All overpayments must be calculated in accordance with regulation and policy and by following procedures. The completed overpayment must be recorded on an approved overpayment chart. All documents to support the overpayment must be copied and attached to the overpayment chart and Overpayment Notification Form (HR3092 or HR3092A) and placed on the client's case.

Ministry error overpayments occur in situations where the client accurately and completely reports all income, assets, and circumstances, and the ministry makes an error in data entry or applies policy or regulation incorrectly, and as a result the client receives more assistance than they are eligible to receive.
Client error overpayments occur in situations where the client does not accurately and completely report all income, assets, and circumstances, and as a result they receive more assistance than they are eligible to receive.

Determining whether an overpayment is due to ministry or client error has no effect on the establishment of the debt. All overpayments of assistance are a debt that the client is liable to repay. The determination of client or ministry error relates to:

  • the decision to impose a sanction (a sanction is not applied when the overpayment is due to ministry error)
  • the decision to refer a case to Prevention and Loss Management Services (PLMS) for review

Referring Overpayments to Prevention and Loss Management Services (PLMS)

Employment and Assistance Workers (EAWs) calculate and recover ministry error overpayments involving any amount. EAWs do not refer ministry error overpayments to PLMS unless the case is closed.

Client error overpayments must be referred to PLMS if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • the estimated overpayment amount is greater than three months' assistance for the family unit
  • the client has previous client error overpayments
  • there is an open Investigation associated with the case
  • the overpayment arose from duplicate assistance (collecting on more than one case or under more than one name), identity theft, or an alleged spousal or dependency relationship

Investigative Officers (IOs) calculate and recover client error overpayments referred to PLMS in any of the above circumstances. IOs conducting Compliance Reviews (CRV) also calculate and recover overpayments due to ministry error and/or client error involving any amount of assistance, if an overpayment is identified during a CRV. IOs do not return overpayments identified during CRVs to EAWs.

[see Overpayment Notification and Overpayment Chart]

Administrative Fairness

Ministry staff must exercise the principles of administrative fairness when recovering overpayments by ensuring that clients:

  • know the details of how the overpayment occurred
  • know how the overpayment was calculated
  • have an opportunity to respond and to provide information
  • are informed about the overpayment in writing
  • are informed of their reconsideration and appeal rights

Informing the Client

The ministry's policy is to inform clients in writing when they have a debt to the ministry. When a review of a client's case indicates an overpayment may have occurred, ministry staff must inform the client of:

  • the information required in relation to the debt
  • the reason for the overpayment
  • the recovery process
  • the right to reconsideration and appeal, and
  • the application of a sanction

Ministry staff must give the client the opportunity to discuss the situation and provide additional information.

Staff are to use the appropriate template letter or form [either the Letter for Client Initiated Overpayments (HR3042) or the Letter for Ministry Initiated Overpayments (HR3043)] to arrange an appointment to review the matter with the client.

When the family unit includes a spouse, the spouse must also be notified. Any correspondence sent to the client must be addressed to both the client and the spouse.

The appointment letter advises the client of the following:

  • the role of the staff member
  • the purpose of the review
  • the situation being reviewed
  • a summary of the evidence
  • the purpose of the interview
  • the preliminary findings
  • the amount of overpayment and how it was calculated
  • the possible consequences of not responding to the matter
  • an appropriate timeframe for written response or personal interview
  • that the client may be accompanied at the interview by an advocate or other person of their choice

Sanctions

If an overpayment is the result of inaccurate or incomplete reporting by the client or their spouse on the application (HR0080), re-application (HR0080R) or monthly report (HR0081) staff may apply a $25 reduction in assistance for the prescribed period.

For details on applying sanctions for inaccurate or incomplete information, see Verification and Eligibility – Sanctions.

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Offence Overpayments: August 1, 2015
August 1, 2015

Effective August 1, 2015, consequences of ineligibility and reduced assistance have been repealed. If a recipient has a debt related to a conviction for fraud or false or misleading representation under an Act offence or a criminal code offence, that person has an offence overpayment.

For a criminal code offence, a recipient will have a $100 deduction per month until the value of that offence overpayment is reached.

For an Act offence, a recipient will have a $100 deduction per month until the required time has concluded or until the value of the offence overpayment is reached, whichever is earlier.

The value of the offence overpayment is considered to be reached when the total amount deducted is equal to the amount for that offence overpayment. For example, if a client owes $1,000 for a criminal code offence, the ministry will deduct $100 for 10 months. The ministry's repayment hierarchy is applied when other debt exists for the family unit by Financial and Administrative Services Branch (FASB).

The deduction for an offence overpayment will end, even if part of that $100 went towards a security deposit repayment or other debt, because the value of the offence overpayment has been reached. Any remaining debt will still be repayable, but at the standard minimum repayment amount.

Type of Offence Consequence Period of Time
Criminal code offences – Convictions prior to and after August 1, 2015

A recipient with an offence overpayment is subject to a deduction of $100 per month.

If two recipients in a family unit are each convicted and have an offence overpayment, the deduction is $200 a month.

If an individual recipient in a family unit has two or more offence overpayments, the deduction is $100 deduction per month. The deductions for the convictions do not apply at the same time.

Exemptions: see below

Until the value of the offence overpayment is reached.
Act offences – prior to August 1, 2015 Offence overpayment policy does not apply to Act offences recorded prior to August 1 2015, as these files concluded the sanction/consequence that applied under previous legislation. Standard minimum repayment amounts apply to remaining debt. Not applicable.
Act offences – after August 1, 2015

A recipient with an offence overpayment is subject to a deduction of $100 a month.

If two recipients in a family unit are each convicted and have an offence overpayment, the deduction is $200 per month.

If an individual recipient in a family unit is convicted and has two or more offence overpayments, they will have a $100 deduction. The deductions for the convictions do not apply at the same time.

Exemptions: see below

1st conviction – 12 consecutive months (unless the value of the offence overpayment is reached earlier.)

2nd conviction – 24 consecutive months (unless the value of the offence overpayment is reached earlier.)

3rd (and subsequent) convictions) – until the value of the offence overpayment has been reached.

For 1st and 2nd convictions, once the periods of 12 or 24 months of $100 deductions have concluded, any remaining debt will still be repayable, but at the standard minimum repayment amount.

If a family unit is subject to the $100 deduction, they will not have any other minimum repayments at the same time.

If the recipient receives less than $100 per month in assistance, they will repay that amount and not be subject to the $100 deduction. For example, if a recipient is eligible for $90 of income assistance, they will repay $90. The recipient will continue to be eligible for assistance.

If the remaining balance of the offence overpayment debt is less than $100, the recipient would pay the amount remaining for that benefit month. For example, if a recipient only has $50 of an offence overpayment remaining; the recipient would have a deduction of $50 for that month.

If a recipient who has an Act offence or a criminal code offence leaves the family unit and continues to be eligible for income assistance, they continue to be subject to the offence overpayment deduction on their new case. If the remaining recipient in the former family unit has not been convicted of an Act offence or a criminal code offence, they are not subject to the offence overpayment deduction, but would be subject to the standard minimum repayment amount for any outstanding debts.

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Exemption from an Offence Overpayment Deduction: August 1, 2015
August 1, 2015

The ministry may provide an exemption from the offence overpayment deduction where:

  • a recipient in the family unit is homeless or at risk of being homeless, or,
  • if that deduction would result in danger to the health of a person in the family unit

Exemptions are considered on a case-by-case basis with approval from a Policy and Program Implementation Manager. The debt remains on the recipient's case and may be recovered at a later date, when the recipient's need for an exemption has been resolved or when they are no longer receiving assistance.

A decision on whether to grant an exemption from the offence overpayment deduction must be made with respect to the family unit's individual circumstances, and may continue indefinitely if required. An exemption must not be denied because other assistance (e.g., crisis supplement) or community resources are available.

Transitioning Cases – Previous Hardship Code "B" – Sanctions with Imminent Danger to Physical Health

Cases that were receiving Hardship Code "B" prior to August 1, 2015 are considered to qualify for the exemption until an eligibility review and exemption assessment can be performed [see Related Links – Eligibility Review]. As these clients are transitioning from hardship to regular assistance, the review must include consideration of additional assistance or supplements the family unit may be eligible for.

If the circumstances that qualified the family unit for hardship persist, the family unit is considered to be eligible for the exemption. If the assessment indicates a change in circumstances, it should be noted that, unlike the previous hardship policy, the exemption:

  • Does not require the risk of homelessness or danger to the recipient to be imminent.
  • Does not limit consideration of health to be limited to physical health.

[see Related Links – Crisis Supplement].

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Exemption for Recovery of Debt from a Comforts Allowance: August 1, 2015
August 1, 2015

Clients will receive an exemption from debt recovery for a family unit where a recipient is in a Long-Term Care facility on a per diem basis and in receipt of a comforts allowance.

Debt may be the result of:

  • Offence overpayments
  • assistance issued while the client is awaiting income from other agencies
  • assistance issued where there was no eligibility
  • supplements repayable by regulation, such as security deposits
  • repayable hardship assistance

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Asset Notification: October 27, 2006
October 27, 2006

Financial and Administrative Services Branch (FASB) may take action to secure assets owned by the client in order to protect the Crown's interest when advised by a Ministry Investigator that an overpayment of assistance in excess of $1000 has occurred. The PLMS Supervisor of Criminal Investigation may determine that asset notification is appropriate in cases under $1,000 where circumstances exist which make it cost effective to act on the lesser amount.

FASB submits requests to secure assets, along with supporting documentation, to Ministry of Justice, Legal Services Branch.

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Collection Action: October 27, 2006
October 27, 2006

When a former client does not repay an overpayment balance voluntarily, the case may be forwarded to Financial and Administrative Services Branch to refer the debt to other government and non-government agencies for collection or legal action. This only applies to closed cases.

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Litigation: October 27, 2006
October 27, 2006

The PLMS Criminal Investigations Unit may request FASB to instruct the Ministry of Justice to initiate civil litigation or may make recommendations to Crown Counsel to initiate criminal prosecution.

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Court Orders: August 15, 2008
August 15, 2008

Litigation can be categorized into civil or criminal court actions.

Civil litigation may result in an Order or Judgement requiring the client to repay an amount ordered by the court. Criminal prosecution may result in a conviction outlining a period of incarceration and /or a restitution order requiring the defendant to repay an amount ordered by the court. The court determines the amount of restitution and if the restitution order is less than the actual overpayment, the ministry may seek recovery of the balance.

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