A Regina woman who received the federal coronavirus benefit for students is expecting to be refunded thousands of dollars clawed back from her provincial disability benefits after winning an appeal against Saskatchewan’s social services ministry.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” Shaylee Rosnes told Global News in a phone interview. “The relief when we finally got the answer we were looking for was just, like, thank goodness.”
The 23-year-old University of Regina social works student has cerebral palsy and relies on the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program to help fund her complex care needs. She typically works in the summers, earning the additional $6,000 permitted under the program’s wage exemption. Because she couldn’t do so amid the coronavirus pandemic, she filed for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).
Saskatchewan’s policy is to deduct emergency benefits dollar for dollar from recipients of provincial income assistance.
Rosnes, with her parents Colin and Nancy Rosnes as advocates, appealed that position in September, arguing that the $6,000 wage exemption should still stand. She relies on that money to fund her basic needs and to pay her bills and student loans.
According to documentation provided to Global News by the Rosnes family, they were successful when they made their initial case on Sept. 2, but the social services ministry drew out the process, appealing their appeal.
In a written decision dated Oct. 28, the Saskatchewan Social Services Appeal Board dismissed it and recommended the ministry “amend existing policy to reflect the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The summary the Rosnes family put forth to the Social Services Appeal Board noted that the federal government had advocated for provinces and territories to allow federal pandemic benefits to complement provincial income support.
While the Saskatchewan government argued it had no obligation to follow the intent from the federal government, the Social Services Appeal Board ultimately sided with Rosnes in its decision.
“The CESB Shaylee Rosnes has received, to a maximum of $6,000.00, and subject to any funds held back for income tax purposes, or deducted for pandemic related expenses, is to be exempted as her earned income,” stated the written copy of the decision Rosnes received.
“From our perspective, this is how it should have been right from the beginning,” Colin Rosnes said.
“What should be happening now is the $6,000 they clawed back dollar for dollar, should be getting refunded.”
In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the social services ministry said they do not speak to specific client cases due to privacy concerns, but confirmed the appeal process in place does allow for client challenges around eligibility for income assistance benefits.
“When the board provides a decision, the ministry reviews the decision and communicates with the client on the next steps in the process,” the email said.