Bridging to Retirement Program
The retirement bridging program supports forestry workers 55 years or older to transition to retirement.
You could be eligible for up to $75,000 in combined retirement bridging funding based on your years of experience, age at retirement and employer contribution.
The Bridging to Retirement Program was expanded to include the Coastal regions (as defined by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development) as announced by the Government of British Columbia on September 17, 2020. Coastal forest worker applications will be accepted until a maximum of 200 applications have been received.
You may be eligible for retirement bridging benefits if you:
- Are a full-time mill worker in the B.C. Interior or Coastal regions, and
- Are 55 years of age or older when you apply, and
- Have been working in a mill in BC for the last 2 consecutive years (or, if you have been displaced since May 1, 2019, the 2 consecutive years prior to your displacement date), and
- Are either:
- displaced on or after May 1, 2019, due to
- a permanent or indefinite closure, or
- a curtailment of at least 4 months
- willing to voluntarily retire after submitting your application and receiving an eligibility confirmation letter from the Ministry of Labour and the following both apply: your retirement creates an opportunity for a more junior impacted worker to fill a resulting vacancy and your retirement does not create a skills shortage for the employer. Ensure that you have received confirmation of eligibility before voluntarily retiring.
- displaced on or after May 1, 2019, due to
To receive retirement bridge funding, you must agree to:
- permanently vacate your position and all seniority with your employer (if you have not yet retired), and
- agree to not to return to work in the B.C. forestry sector or in any other work as an employee for 18 months unless it is working for your own business.
What you need to apply
In order to submit a complete application, you will be required to provide the following documentation (copies are acceptable). Please look through your records to make sure you have this available:
- One of the following pieces of identification: birth certificate, driver's license, Canadian citizenship, permanent resident, or passport identification
- Income tax returns for the previous two years
- Two most recent pay slips
- One T4
- A Record of Employment or a letter from your employer confirming your employment
- You may also obtain a copy of a Record of Employment through the Government of Canada’s “My Service Canada Account” website, where you will need to follow the steps to create an account, then request your Record of Employment.
- Once you create an account you can also view and print your T4s.
- Voluntary applicants must provide written approval from your employer agreeing to your participation in the program before eligibility can be confirmed.
For additional information, please phone, toll free, 1 844 478-0822, or email to LBR.ForestryWorker@gov.bc.ca.
How to apply:
If you meet eligibility requirements and have the necessary documentation, complete an online application
Please visit a local Service BC office to access online form at a computer kiosk.
If you require assistance filling out an application online, do not have a computer, or wish to fill out a paper copy, please visit a Service BC office or call Service BC at 1 844 901-0970.
After the online application has been completed, supporting application documentation can be mailed to:
Bridging to Retirement
Ministry of Labour
PO Box 9594
Stn Prov Govt
Frequently Asked Questions
The maximum combined amount (government and employer contributions) available for 55 year old employees with 15 or more years of experience is $75,000. The maximum amount available declines by $5,000 per year until age 65. The actual amount received may be lower if you have less than 15 years of experience in the forestry sector. The actual benefit amount will be determined based on the eligibility criteria, your specific individual history and any employer contribution for minimum severance requirements under the Employment Standards Act (not a negotiated settlement amount).
If you are already retired, you are eligible if you were a full-time mill employee in the B.C. Interior or Coastal regions and were displaced, resulting in involuntary retirement, on or after May 1, 2019 due to a permanent or indefinite closure OR a curtailment or shift reduction of at least 4 months. If you retired before May 1, 2019 you are not eligible.
The Bridging to Retirement Program is designed to provide near-term assistance to support mill employees and communities impacted by indefinite and permanent mill closures in B.C.’s Interior or Coastal regions. This includes generating vacancies, through voluntary retirements, that can be filled by more junior impacted workers. Your target retirement date should be at most 90 to 120 days in the future as we cannot guarantee support for retirements well into the future, where benefits are not paid until after you have retired and left the workforce.
If you meet the eligibility criteria for impacted workers, you may apply to the program. The maximum amount you may be eligible for will be reduced by any employer contribution for minimum severance requirements under the Employment Standards Act, not the negotiated severance amount.
5. My last two years of employment were not consecutive, as I was laid off for a few months during a temporary closure. Am I eligible to apply?
You may still be eligible if you had gaps in work during those two years, depending on the reason for those gaps. Collecting Employment Insurance is an acceptable reason for a gap in consecutive employment. Other acceptable reasons include, but are not necessarily limited to medical leave, maternity/paternity leave and jury duty. The program will evaluate reasons for gaps on a case by case basis, so you are encouraged to apply and provide as much supporting documentation as possible.
Application Process Information
6. Is there a time limit to apply?
The program receives applications on a rolling application basis, so there are no specific windows to apply. However, the program was announced with funding over two calendar years so you must apply before the program ends. As this is a new program, we will evaluate intake processes for efficiency later in the year to determine if any changes to application timing may be needed.
While the process is intended to be as quick as possible, the length of time may vary for each person depending on the completeness of the information provided and any information that may be needed from your employer. Our goal is to process eligible applications within 4 to 6 weeks, but we recognize that it is taking longer due to high application volumes and apologize for the delay. We are working diligently to process applications, including working over the holidays, and appreciate your patience.
Please be aware that any benefit you may be eligible for will not be paid until after application approval and payment information is confirmed. If you have not yet retired, payment is not made until after your retirement date.
The program requires a recent T4 slip and 2 years of income tax returns to show all income sources and verify that your primary income is from full-time employment at a mill in the B.C. Interior or Coastal regions. This cannot be determined from just a Notice of Assessment and T4. The program requires a copy of your return, also called an “Income Tax and Benefit Return” by the CRA, which is usually 3-4 pages (click here for example) but does not require the supporting schedules and worksheets. A copy of the electronic filing of your return is also acceptable.
Please note: if you have already provided a Notice of Assessment, it may be used later by the program to confirm RRSP confirmation room if your application is approved and you want your benefit to go towards your RRSP.
The program will send you a confirmation letter by email or mail once your application is received. The program will contact you if there is any missing information to ensure your application is complete. Completed applications will be reviewed to determine whether you are eligible. A letter will be sent to inform you of your eligibility. If you are eligible, the letter will include the eligible benefit amount and describe next steps. Please note that application processing is taking longer than we anticipate due to high application volumes and we apologize for the delay. We are working diligently to process applications, including working over the holidays, and appreciate your patience.
We are striving to review and process each application as quickly as possible. While our processing target time is 4-6 weeks after receiving all documents, we recognize that application processing is taking longer than we anticipate due to high application volumes and we apologize for the delay. We are working diligently to process applications, including working over the holidays, and appreciate your patience. The decision letters will first be sent to workers already displaced from their jobs, then workers who are voluntarily retiring. You will be contacted when your application review has been completed.
11. If my application is approved, will I be informed of the amount before I make my final decision?
Yes, the program receives the application (including supporting documents) and may work with your employer to obtain additional information. Upon confirming your eligibility and receiving any additional information from the employer, the program will calculate the bridging benefit and send a letter to inform you of the bridging amount. You will be required to provide written, signed confirmation of your retirement date and acceptance of your obligations for receiving the benefit.
Your application to the Ministry of Labour can be cancelled by you in writing any time prior to the program receiving your completed Direction to Pay form. A Direction to Pay form will be sent to you if your application is approved.
Definitions and General Program Information
The B.C. Government has announced $40 million in funding over two calendar years for Interior mill workers. On September 17, 2020 the B.C. Government announced $10 million in funding for mill workers in the Coastal Regions.
14. What is meant by "voluntary retirement" as part of the Bridging to Retirement Program?
If you are currently working as a full time mill employee in a mill that is operating in the B.C. Interior or Coastal regions, and are 55 plus with two years’ consecutive, recent experience in the mill, you may apply to the program with the intention to voluntarily retire to receive bridging benefits. However, your application will require confirmation from your employer that no skills shortage is created, and your vacancy must be filled by a more junior, impacted worker. If your employer provides information that a skills gap will be created, you will not be eligible to receive bridging benefits through this program because your skills makes you one of the people that the mill needs to stay strong. You may still retire but not receive bridging benefits through the program. If you chose not to retire, you may be eligible for other Forestry Worker support programs such as the job placement program or skills training. Go here for more details: https://forestryworkersupport.gov.bc.ca
Individuals must be employed as mill workers by forestry companies in the B.C. Interior or Coastal regions to be eligible. The B.C. Interior and Coastal regions are defined by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and includes all the communities in the Natural Resource Districts of:
- Skeena, Omineca and Northeast (the North Area)
- Includes, for example, Ft. St. John, Ft. St. James, Prince George and Mackenzie
- Cariboo, Kootenay-Boundary and Thompson-Okanagan (the South Area)
- Includes, for example, Clearwater, 100 Mile House, Kamloops, Kelowna and Vernon
- South and West Coast regions
- Includes, for example, Chilliwack, Sunshine Coast, Port McNeill, Campbell River and Bella Coola
The B.C. Interior does not include the South Coast or West Coast Districts (the Coast Area).
Payment and RRSP Information
The timing of the benefit payment depends on your retirement date and when the program receives your direction for the payment. If you are approved, you will be provided with a Direction to Pay form so you can direct the bridging benefit portion to be paid via cheque, direct deposit and/or as an RRSP contribution. Payments cannot be made until the Program receives both your completed form and confirmation that you have retired (in the case of voluntary retirements, this means after your actual retirement date). You can cancel your application any time prior to the program receiving your completed Direction to Pay form.
Once your eligibility has been confirmed and the benefit amount calculated, you can direct the bridging benefit portion to be paid via cheque, direct deposit and/or as a contribution to your RRSP.
- To receive funds by direct deposit, you will need to provide banking information to the program.
- To make contributions to your RRSP or your spouse’s RRSP, you will be required to provide RRSP transfer information, along with the most recent income tax Notice of Assessment for you or your spouse, prior to receiving the payment. The Notice of Assessment is mailed each year after submitting your income tax return. On the Assessment, the ‘Available Contribution Room’ section shows the available RRSP contribution amount for the next year.
- When your application is processed there may be other options to direct how you receive your benefit.
18. Will I have to pay taxes on the bridging benefit amount that I receive?
The bridging benefit is a taxable benefit; the taxes to be paid will depend on how you choose to direct the payment between a cheque, direct deposit or as a contribution to your RRSP. You may be able to add it to your or your spouse’s RRSP if contribution space is available, however it is recommended that you seek tax advice to understand any tax impact in your situation.
No, receiving the bridging benefit does not require that you start taking your pension. The Bridging to Retirement Program is intended to provide bridging funds so that you may retire without having to take your pension early.