Letter: Minister defends rate increase for disabled

Dear Editor,

Last month, the provincial budget was tabled – and in doing so, we announced an investment of $170 million to increase disability assistance rates for about 100,000 clients.

Unfortunately, in recent weeks a great deal of confusion has been created, resulting in anxiety and fear – so I wish to address the facts.

The level of rate increase depends on whether a client wishes to continue to access a subsidized annual bus pass – but regardless, it will be their choice to: 1) receive the full $77 per month rate increase 2) maintain an annual bus pass and receive an extra $25 per month, or 3) if you receive the Special Transportation Subsidy, the rate increase includes this amount and an additional $11 per month.

It is important to note, the subsidized bus pass is a significant savings to people in communities such as Victoria or Vancouver where a monthly pass can cost anywhere from $85 to $170 per month – while the cost of purchasing a bus pass directly from BC Transit in other communities may be much less. For example, a bus pass currently costs $40 a month in Fort St. John, $35 in Quesnel and $44 in Chilliwack.

As a person with a disability – I fully understand and appreciate that the level of increase, whatever it may result in for an individual recipient, is modest. However, this is just one of many initiatives your government has adopted to ensure greater support and wrap-around services for those with a disability.

Through Budget 2016, we extended the seniors $1,000 home renovation tax credit to people with a disability. We have increased Annualized Earnings Exemptions that help people on assistance whose ability to work fluctuates throughout the year. They can earn an additional $9,600 a year without it affecting their assistance. We have also brought in changes so people on disability can receive cash gifts with no impact to their assistance. Technology@work provides accessible technology to people withdisabilities, making it easier for them to find and retain employment.

And we have simplified the application process to make it easier for some people applying for disability assistance.

We will continue to invest in programs and services that ensure people with disabilities receive an increasing level of support – and I will continue to work with the disability community to push forward and achieve the goals we are collectively seeking.

Michelle Stilwell

Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation

 

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