What we have learned about AISH
By VCC and the Disability Action Hall
Members of the disability community, including those in the social service sector, have expressed concern over perceived changes made to the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program since the release of the first provincial budget in the fall of 2019. Vibrant Communities Calgary and the Disability Action Hall would like to unpack these changes to provide more clarity and understanding.
People on AISH have a permanent medical condition that prevents them from earning a living, and advocates have worked hard to ensure that benefit levels enable people in the program to meet their basic needs. Albertans are proud that AISH benefit levels now match the cost of basic needs, ensuring that no one with a disability has to live in poverty. Years of advocacy also paid off in November of 2018 when the provincial government tabled Bill 26 An Act to Combat Poverty and Fight for Albertans with Disabilities indexing all income support programs so benefit levels would keep pace with the cost of living. This recommendation was more than 20 years in the making going back to an MLA committee review of Alberta’s income support programs in 2001.
A change in government and the release of the 2019 budget presented significant funding challenges to several social service programs, including AISH. The fiscal plan stated that “AISH benefit rates continue to be much higher than other provinces, putting programs and services under significant pressure under the fiscal reality,” and put a pause on indexation of all income support programs, including AISH. The pause on indexation was not only disappointing, but worrisome that more changes may come. In 2020, there have been 10 updates to the AISH program; none of them have impacted eligibility and none should be a cause for concern, however in March 2020 when Bill 21 was introduced in the 2020 budget, it did cause some concern. Bill 21 repealed the AISH Act, and moved AISH away from legislation and into regulation, allowing the province to make changes to the AISH program with greater ease and more quickly. To-date no major changes have taken place to the AISH program, but this is something we will monitor.
Another change that has caused distress for those who did not have direct deposit occurred in May 2020. The government changed the payment date of income supports and AISH from the 5th last business day of the month to the first of the month. For those without direct deposit, this made paying bills on time difficult, especially since rent is typically due on the last day of the month and they needed the extra time between when the direct deposit is received and when they pay their bills. The previous AISH and income support payment schedule offered this buffer.
Unfortunately, some top-down decisions were made leading to assumptions that eligibility to the AISH program had been changed, and what we learned is that this is not the case. Please see our timeline of changes to AISH for visual clarity on what has occurred.
We discovered that the Government of Alberta does allow people to subscribe to AISH updates. Sign-up to receive email notifications here. We also encourage those who would like further clarity to contact the Calgary AISH office by calling 403-297-8511 or through email at email@example.com.
- Auditor General Report October 2016
- Open data AISH Guide May 2020
- Facebook Statement MAY 28, 2020 by CSS Minister Rajan Sawhney
- AISH adjudication guide
Share the timeline and references in the pdf here.