Hepatitis C: An In-Depth Guide



People living with hepatitis C may have difficulty working if their illness becomes severe or the side effects of treatment become difficult. Different programs are available to help cover costs of living for people in these situations. Income assistance (also referred to as financial or social assistance) is for people who need help paying for basic necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing and health care. Applicants may want to discuss their health status with their case worker so they can get the most financial and social support possible.

Programs in Alberta

Alberta Works Income Support

In Alberta, Alberta Works provides Income Support to people who require assistance with paying for their basic needs, such as food, rent, clothing and medicine. The Income Support program gives eligible residents a monthly allowance, health benefits for themselves and their dependents, training and employment services, and help obtaining child support if required. People in one of the following three situations may qualify for Income Support:

  • people who have difficulty working because of a chronic mental or physical health problem
  • people who are working, looking for work or unable to work at the moment
  • people who need training or upgrading for a new job

The amount of assistance a person can receive depends on their employability, income level, family size and level of need. A person's health conditions and medical needs are also considered.

To apply for Income Support, people can call the 24-hour Income Support Contact Centre at (780) 644-5135 in Edmonton or toll-free at 1-866-644-5135 from outside of Edmonton. People can also call or visit their local Alberta Employment office.

Job training and employment services are available to Income Support clients who are able to work and who need help with education, job training or finding employment. Some programs will pay people while they are training for a new job or provide support such as child care and transportation so people can attend training sessions and job interviews. People can discuss these program options with their case worker to see if there is a program that may help them secure employment.

People with permanent disabilities or chronic hepatitis C may want to ask their case worker about the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program, run by the Department of Seniors and Community Supports. This program is intended to assist people with permanent disabilities by giving them a monthly living allowance, health benefits and personal benefits, such as access to addictions treatment and child care. The sometimes-disabling symptoms of chronic hepatitis C may or may not be considered a disability by the AISH program. People can call their local AISH office to apply.

If a person disagrees with a decision about their Income Support application or benefits, they can file an appeal to have their case reviewed. Having the assistance of a community advocate can usually help with this process.

Programs in Canada

Canada Pension Plan (CPP)

CPP is normally for people who have retired from working, but if a person has a medical disability, he or she may be able to receive monthly pensions before turning 65 from CPP Disability. A person must have worked in the past and paid CPP contributions (this is a standard deduction on most paychecks). The application must be accompanied by a detailed medical assessment confirming the medical condition. Often a person must appeal a negative decision for CPP disability before the application is approved.

Employment Insurance (EI)

EI is a program for people who have stopped working because they were laid off, had a baby or are too sick to work. Eligibility is based on the number of hours a person has worked, whether they have been on EI before, and what the unemployment rate is. It is usually a shorter-term program but can help while people are waiting for other programs, such as disability pensions. EI Regular Benefits can last almost a year while EI Sick Benefits generally last about 15 weeks. The amount of money a person can receive is based on a percentage of their income from their most recent job.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Many employers have employee benefits that can provide short-term disability benefits or a disability pension. Some may even have EAPs that provide counselling and financial planning. The person should enquire through the personnel or HR department. All such enquiries are kept confidential but the employee will have to disclose some personal medical information.

Revised 2014.