OCAP believes that there is no such thing as an overpayment for social assistance because the rates are too low. However, the government doesn't agree and will try to collect them. Here is what you need to know.
Overpayments occur when you get too much money on your cheque. There are two kinds of overpayments: administrative or uncollectible and collectible.
Overpayments are portable between ODSP and OW so if you have an overpayment when you are on one and transfer to the other form of assistance, they can still collect if off of your cheque.
Administrative overpayments are issued to you as an error. Usually, these are caused by miscalculations, your assistance office not acting on information you give it, or data entry errors. These mistakes are considered 'uncollectible,'if this is the case and they believed that you wouldn't have already spent the money, you'll be asked to return it. You'll also be asked to return the money if it was obviously an overpayment and you should have known. If this isn't the case, you can keep the money.
If they find that your administrative overpayment needs to be repaid, they will treat it like a collectible overpayment.
If they decide that your administrative overpayment is collectible, but you disagree, you should fight it.
These are overpayments that they blame on you.
Usually they are caused by:
- not reporting changes about your living situation or income;
- you misrepresent or don't give them information;
- you default on an assignment obligation (eg. child support); or,
- you were getting payments while waiting for a decision from the Social Benefits Tribunal and you you lose the case so you have to pay back the assistance you got.
Generally, they take 5% off of your cheque until the overpayment is paid off. But when you don't have a lot of money, 5% is a lot of money. There are ways of getting the amount they take off each month reduced. If you show that there is an undue hardship, you can get how much they take of to 2% or sometimes you can get collection temporarily waived.
However, they have to have the paperwork for the overpayment and be able to tell you what it is from. Always ask to see proof of the overpayment, if they can't show you, you don't have to pay.
If you go off of assistance, they can still try to get the overpayment back. If you go back on assistance after having an overpayment and they going off, they will start taking the overpayment off your cheque again.
If you declare bankruptcy, you can temporarily not have to pay the overpayment and when you get a notice of discharge from bankruptcy, the overpayment will be declared permanently uncollectible so you will never have to pay it. However, if they find that the overpayment was a result of fraud or lying, it will not be erased by bankruptcy.
You can fight an overpayment if you think it is wrong.