The province is working to ensure all Albertans can benefit from the economic recovery by ensuring people with disabilities or low income Albertans have stable, predictable supports.
If passed, An Act to Combat Poverty and Fight for Albertans with Disabilities would index social benefits like Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) with inflation. It would also recognize increases to the cost of living by providing a one-time increase to AISH and Income Support.
“An economic recovery that doesn’t reach every kitchen table is no recovery at all. We are committed to helping make life better for all Albertans and this bill would make life more affordable for our most vulnerable citizens, and help ensure everyone has the chance to succeed and live with dignity.”
~Rachel Notley, Premier
The legislation would mark the first increase to AISH benefits since 2012. In future years, benefit rates for financial assistance programs, including AISH, Learners Benefits and Barriers to Full Employment supports, would be connected to the Consumer Price Index.
“This legislation would provide greater protection and predictability for vulnerable Albertans who rely on these benefits. For too long, Albertans with disabilities have struggled to pay rent and put food on the table. This legislation would not only provide better supports today, but ensure people on AISH and low-income Albertans won’t need to fight to afford the basics tomorrow.”
~Irfan Sabir, Minister of Community and Social Services
Nearly 250,000 Albertans receive support through AISH, Income Support or Seniors Benefits. If passed, the legislation would make Alberta one of only four jurisdictions that indexes disability and income support benefits, and one of only two that indexes seniors benefits with inflation.
“I acquired my disability 14 years ago and a lot has changed in 14 years. This cost-of-living increase means the government recognizes the AISH program needs to change with the times. It will take away the desperation of managing my finances in the face of yearly inflation.”
~Ian Young, AISH client, writer and advocate
To ensure Albertans with disabilities can plan for the future without eroding their savings, the legislation would also increase savings limits to match general eligibility criteria for the AISH child allowance ($100,000 instead of $3,000), and the AISH supplementary personal benefits from $3,000 to $5,000.
“We are pleased with the government’s decision to increase AISH and the income programs and, most importantly, to index them. Poverty isn’t just about money, but it is always about money. These actions will make a big difference in the lives of our most vulnerable Albertans.”
~Franco Savoia, Vibrant Communities Calgary
The legislation comes after government’s ongoing discussions between the disability and poverty reduction communities.
“Indexing these vital programs will reach individuals and families that are in the greatest need and will enhance Alberta’s continuing initiatives to prevent poverty. End Poverty Edmonton has advocated for these changes and we would like to applaud this government for working to ensure all Albertans can afford their daily costs into the future.”
~Michael Phair, End Poverty Edmonton
“An increase to social assistance benefits will give women the ability to independently meet their most basic needs. Organizations like YW Calgary can offer programs to support women and their families with counselling or housing or employment supports, but if they can’t buy toothpaste or choose their own food, they can’t really move forward. These long overdue increases to benefits will have a direct impact on women’s lives and enable them to think about their futures and how they can contribute to community.”
~Elsbeth Mehrer, YWCA Calgary
“We believe that without adequate income people can’t get by, and without assets people can’t get ahead. By indexing critical benefits to the cost of living and raising the liquid asset limits for Albertans to access Income Support, the provincial government will reduce the financial stress for thousands of Albertans and create the opportunity for these individuals and families to exit the income support system when possible and move forward in their lives.”
~Jeff Loomis, Momentum
The legislation is a key component of Alberta’s Action on Poverty plan, which includes actions across government to make life more affordable, support wellness and social inclusion, enhance skills and employment opportunities and invest in affordable housing and homeless supports.
- If passed, the legislation would come into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
- Quebec, Yukon and Manitoba index disability and income support benefit rates with inflation.
- Yukon is the only other Canadian jurisdiction that indexes their seniors’ benefits with inflation.
- If passed, the government will invest approximately $46 million in 2018-19 and $194 million in 2019-20 to support the legislation.