Save the Date! So Our Bills Won’t Be Late!

Starting March 2020, the monthly payment date for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Income Support (IS) is changing to the first of the month. This change is causing a lot of concern among Albertans.

Read Edmonton Journal’s article about  how support payment changes in Alberta could hurt some recipients more than others here, CBC’s article about how the change in  AISH payment dates could create lineups for low income bus passes here, Global News’ story here, and Medicine Hat News’ article here.

 

Read the following blog post below, written by Members of the Disability Action Hall.

Save the Date! So Our Bills Won’t Be Late!

Guest Blogger: Members of the Disability Action Hall

The Government of Alberta (GOA) wants to change the payment of Income Supports and AISH from the 5th last business day of the month to the first of the month.  This change will be bad for everyone, including the GOA.  We ask all MLAs to keep the payment dates for AISH and Income Supports the same as they are now so people can:

1. Pay rent on-time
2. Report income on-time
3. Maintain good credit
4. Buy a bus pass
5. Maintain good health
6. Plan for the future

Lease agreements with private landlords are signed on different dates of the month. Lease agreements are not standard across the province, nor are eviction policies. People require the extra days at the end of the month so they can pay their rent on time and be in good standing with their landlords. Eviction practices vary from one property owner to another. Too many late payments may result in landlord/tenant disputes and increased public hearings, which could create backlogs with the Residential Landlord Tenant Disputes Service and courts who are already overwhelmed with public hearings. The pool of affordable housing units is small, and in this environment, it may be difficult to negotiate new payment dates with landlords who can simply evict in favour of tenants who do not depend on government support.

The change in payment date may also force Albertans on Income Supports to disclose to their landlord that cheques are late due to when the government pays income assistance. A person’s source of income is private information. This could open the Ministry of Community and Social Services to allegations of causing a breach of privacy given the recommendation from the CSS Minister to talk to property managers to negotiate new leases with landlords.

People need extra time between when the direct deposit is in a personal account and when they pay their bills to avoid penalties for late payment. The previous AISH/Income supports payment schedule offered this buffer.

Income Support benefit rates offer little more than bare sustenance and are not indexed to the cost of living.  This leaves little room to absorb additional bank fees related to bounced cheques or late payments. For instance, to do a stop payment at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) it costs an additional $12.50. Those who are not successful in stopping the payment, will be charged $45.00 for insufficient funds if the money is not in their account on time, potentially leading to an increased risk of use of payday loans as a stop-gap measure.

We recommend the province use the same schedule as “The Alberta Seniors Benefits” so the payment schedules are aligned (typically, the 5th last business day of a month).  Ideally, a change in Income Support benefit payments would be clearly communicated to recipients, and given advanced notice.  The changing of the date highlights what should just be an arbitrary date change is because social supports are inadequate.

A change of payment date is a big deal. People are in dire straits.

If you or someone you know needs support in managing the change in Income Support payment dates, please take a look at the following linked resources:

 

For more information, visit actionhall.ca

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