Nanaimo woman wins social aid appeal

NANAIMO – Georgina Miller fought a move by the B.C. Ministry to cancel social aid and seek repayment.

A Nanaimo woman has won her appeal against a B.C. government decision to cancel her social aid.

Georgina Miller, 50, has spent four months battling a move by the Ministry of Social Development to cancel her social assistance and seek $610 in repayment.

Ministry officials claimed Miller was over the threshold for government aid because she was receiving fire insurance benefits. Miller, however, argued the benefits had not put her in an advantageous position and were only meant to cover temporary housing while her home is being repaired. Her townhouse was destroyed in a February fire and she continues to be responsible for home ownership costs, like the mortgage and strata fees.

The B.C. Employment and Assistance Tribunal sided with Miller last week and overturned the provincial decision.

“I am elated,” Miller said. “[It shows] the little guy can win … we have a voice.”

Miller’s insurance provider has been compensating her for living expenses since a blaze made her townhouse unlivable.

The Ministry of Social Development considers the benefits unearned income, prompting it to cancel its social assistance and require $610 for one month it believed she was overpaid.

While its employment and assistance regulation exempts insurance benefits for a destroyed asset, the living expenses are ‘extra amounts’ that are not required to rebuild the house or cover lost contents.

The appeal board looked at the issue of repayment and cancelled social aid for July – two complaints Miller had made – and overturned the decision.

It argued the residence itself is a ‘destroyed asset’ and because it was inhabitable, Miller had a right to receive both social aid and the insurance benefits for temporary housing.