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 Ontario

Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)

The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services provides social assistance (often called welfare) to people who need help paying for basic necessities such as food, clothing, rent and medicine. There are two main programs available to eligible applicants in need of financial support: Ontario Works – OW and the Ontario Disability Support Program – ODSP

Ontario Works: Financial Assistance and Employment Assistance

Ontario Works (OW) provides financial and employment assistance to people who require support while trying to secure employment. Clients receive a monthly allowance to help pay for basic necessities, the amount of which is based on household income, assets, family size and cost of housing. Additional benefits, such as prescription, dental and vision coverage, emergency relief, financial assistance for medical transportation, moving or eviction prevention costs and employment-related costs, may be available for eligible applicants.

To receive OW, people are expected to take part in activities that will assist with finding employment, such as acquiring more education or job training. Employment Assistance, which includes services such as gaining access to basic education, attending workshops on how to look for work, résumé writing, preparing for an interview and getting referrals to job training programs, can be arranged by OW staff. However, if an individual is too sick to participate in these activities, they may speak with their OW case worker to see if they may be exempt from this requirement. 

To apply for OW, people can either call or visit their local OW office to make an appointment with a staff member. First Nations people can contact a First Nations OW office in their area to begin the application process. The application for OW can be processed in as little as two or three days.

If a person disagrees with a decision related to their application for OW, they can file a request for an internal review. People can either write a letter to their OW office or fill out the Request for Internal Review Form to start the review process. Having the assistance of a community advocate can usually help with this process.

Ontario Disability Support Program – ODSP

People who are sick and can’t work for a long period of time may be interested in the Ontario Disability Support Program – ODSP. This program is for people with ongoing disabilities who need either Income Support to pay for living expenses, Employment Support if they can work, or both. Prospective applicants need to undergo a formal Medical Review in order to determine if they have a disability that is expected to last a year or more and makes it hard to care for themselves and to be involved in community life or work.

The ODSP provides recipients with more money than OW alone as well as additional benefits, which may include prescription drug coverage, medical transportation, money for assistive devices and housing arrangements.

To apply for the ODSP, people can call or visit their local ODSP Income Support Office to set up an appointment with a staff member. If people would like more information about the ODSP Employment Support program, they can call or visit an ODSP Employment Support Office. The application for ODSP can take as long as three to six month to process, but people can apply for OW while they wait for ODSP.  OW can initiate an ODSP application for people already receiving OW.

If a person disagrees with a decision related to their application for ODSP, they can request an internal review. People can visit the internal review information webpage to fill out the Request for Internal Review Form to start the review process. 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.