Bill 26: An Act to Combat Poverty and Fight for Albertans with Disabilities

By Lee Stevens

“Momentous”, “long-hoped for”, and “crucial” are just some of the reactions to Bill 26 “An Act to Combat Poverty and Fight for Albertans with Disabilities.” When passed, bill 26 would result in a modest increase to the benefit rates for those who rely on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and income support, expand eligibility, and index them to inflation[1].  The announcement from the Government of Alberta came on November 8th, and indicates progress on our collective efforts to create systemic change, and reduce poverty.  This action comes after many letters, reports and public service announcements[2] carried out not only by Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC), but also by Enough for All stakeholders, partners, and people with lived experience who know all too well the inadequacies, and complexities of these income support programs.

Here are details of the monthly rate increase for a single person starting January 1, 2019:

Benefit Type 2018 2019 ($) Amount of Increase
AISH $1588 $1685 $97
Income Support Expected to work (ETW) $627 $745 $118
Barriers to Employment (BTE) $731 $866 $135
Learners $847 $866 $19
Alberta Seniors Benefit $280 $285 $5

 

These amounts will change annually, as they will be tied to inflation, according to the Alberta Consumer Price Index.  Interestingly, Alberta will be one of just four jurisdictions in Canada that have indexed income support and disability benefits. The province of Alberta and the Yukon are the only two jurisdictions that have indexed their senior’s benefits.  Bill 26 will also mean amendments to the asset limits for those who receive AISH.  The child allowance asset limit will be increased from $3,000 to $100,000. It is unclear what changes will be made to the asset limits for income support.

We express our appreciation for these much-needed changes to our income support programs as they are good short to mid-term solutions towards poverty reduction.

 

However, we feel that a longer-term policy solution is to provide a universal basic income.  Basic income is a regular, predictable income, universally and unconditionally available to all who need it, sufficient to provide for a decent lifestyle and enable full participation in the community. From many vantage points, basic income is a policy choice that makes sense.  Our hope is that these changes indicate a readiness to consider a basic income for our province.  We support Basic Income Calgary, currently the only known formalized group in Alberta advocating for a basic income pilot, and who have outlined key principles that should guide the design and delivery.  If you would like to gain a broader perspective of basic income and how it would impact Albertans, consider attending the Make it BIG conference hosted by Basic Income Calgary on May 30-31st, and visit www.basicincomecalgary.ca.

Read more about the announcement here.

Lee Stevens is a Community Facilitation and Engagement Specialist at Vibrant Communities Calgary. Please feel free to email Lee or comment below.

 

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[1] Overview of bill 26: An act to combat poverty and fight for Albertans with disabilities.  Retrieved from http://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspx?p=bills_status&selectbill=026&legl=29&session=4

[2] Alberta Income supports are keeping people poor (2018).  Retrieved from http://vibrantcalgary.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Albertas-Income-Supports-are-keeping-people-poor.pdf

Poverty costs 2.0: Investing in Albertans (2015).  Retrieved from http://enoughforall.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Poverty-Costs-2.5.pdf

The School of Public Policy (April, 2018). Policy trends: Social assistance caseloads in Alberta.  Retrieved from https://www.policyschool.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Social-Trends-AB-SA-by-Family-Type-Final.pdf

 

 

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