Eligibility for Ontario Works financial assistance
Learn about the financial information we use to determine if you are eligible for the Ontario Works program, and what information you need to provide.
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When you apply for Ontario Works or are receiving financial assistance through the program, you need to keep us up to date so we can make sure you remain eligible and are getting the right amount of financial assistance. This is important since your situation may change over time.
To qualify for Ontario Works financial assistance, you must:
- be at least 16 years of age
- be an Ontario resident
- have assets no greater than the limits set out in the program
- be in financial need
- participate in employment activities
To see if you are financially eligible, we will look at your circumstances including your income and assets, living expenses, family size and make-up and shelter costs.
To receive assistance through Ontario Works, you will need to agree to participate in approved activities.
Together with a worker from the Ontario Works office, you will develop a plan that outline activities that you will do to improve your skills and find work.
The plan is updated regularly when you complete activities or begin new ones.
Find out about services that can help you prepare for and find a job.
If you are applying for Ontario Works or receiving financial assistance from the program, it is important that you tell your caseworker about all money you or your family receive from other sources.
We need to know about your income so that we can make sure you are getting the right amount of Ontario Works financial assistance. In general, any money you or your family receive is income, and may affect your financial assistance.
Examples of income and other sources of funds
Income and other sources of funds you need to report include:
- a job
- tax benefits
- Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or Québec Pension Plan (QPP) benefits
- Employment Insurance (EI)
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits
- earnings from a job, training program
- profit from a farm or business, including self-employment
- spousal support
- sponsorship support
- Guaranteed Annual Income Supplement (GAINS)
- Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)
- Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)
You need to tell your caseworker about any assets you or your family own if you are applying for Ontario Works or are receiving financial assistance from the program. We consider your assets when determining your eligibility for financial assistance.
Examples of assets
Assets are property, possessions or money that belong to you or your family. Here are some examples:
- money you have in bank accounts
- stocks and bonds
- Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP)
- property (for example, land or a house)
- trust funds
- any other assets that you or your family own
Some assets are exempt, which means they do not affect your eligibility for financial assistance. Here are some examples of exempt assets:
- the home you own and live in
- your primary vehicle (the one you use the most, if you have more than one)
- pre-paid funerals
- Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP)
- Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP)
- necessary household and personal items, such as furniture and clothing
There are many rules about the treatment of assets while you are receiving financial assistance. Your Ontario Works caseworker can help you figure out which of your assets are exempt.
It is important that you report all your assets to your caseworker.
There are limits to the amount of non-exempt assets you can have and still be eligible for financial assistance. The asset limits are:
- $10,000 for a single person
- $15,000 for a couple
- an additional $500 for each dependant
If you are over the limit
In some cases, you can get approval to save money and assets above the limit. Talk to your Ontario Works caseworker for details.
Gifts and voluntary payments
If you are receiving financial assistance through Ontario Works, you and your family may be able to receive gifts or voluntary payments for any reason without affecting your financial assistance.
You and each family member are allowed to receive a total of up to $10,000 in a 12-month period of financial help in the form of gifts and voluntary payments from relatives, friends or other sources.
Gifts or voluntary payments of any amount that are used for the purchase of a primary residence, an exempt motor vehicle or first and last month’s rent will not affect your financial assistance.
You may receive donations from religious and charitable organizations without affecting your financial assistance.
Your Ontario Works caseworker can help you figure out how these rules could affect your eligibility for financial assistance.
Life insurance policies
Life insurance is usually considered an asset when it has a ‘cash surrender value’, which is what the insurance company will pay when the insurance policy is terminated by the insurer or the policyholder cancels a life insurance policy early.
If a life insurance policy does not have a cash surrender value, we do not consider it an asset.
Talk to your Ontario Works caseworker about your life insurance and they can help you figure out how your life insurance policy could affect your eligibility for financial assistance.
Income earned on a life insurance policy
Dividends or interest earned from a life insurance policy is exempt as income if reinvested in the policy.
You must report any dividends or interest earned from your life insurance policy and the changes to your policy to your worker.
Payments from a life insurance policy
You must report any payments you receive from a life insurance policy to your worker. This includes dividends or interest earned that are paid out.
Generally, we consider payments from a life insurance policy as income when you receive them.
When we assess your eligibility for financial assistance from Ontario Works, we consider any money held in a trust for you and your family.
It is possible that all or part of the money held in a trust for you or a family member may be exempt as an asset. This means it does not affect your eligibility for financial assistance.
If a trust fund is not accessible to you or a family member because of the terms of the trust, then it is not considered an asset and does not affect your eligibility for financial assistance.
There are different types of trusts and the impact on a person's financial assistance depends on the details of the trust. Your Ontario Works caseworker can help you figure out how a trust could affect your eligibility for financial assistance.
Disagreements, internal reviews and appeals
If you disagree with a decision, you can ask to have the decision reviewed. This is the first step in the appeal process and is called an Internal Review.
If you don't agree with the decision from the Internal Review, you may be able to appeal the decision to the Social Benefits Tribunal.