‘A real letdown’: Disabled B.C. man reacts to federal disability benefit

Click to play video: 'Disability benefit amount  in federal budget disappoints'
Disability benefit amount in federal budget disappoints
Disability advocates held out so much hope before last week's federal budget, as Ottawa released how much a new benefit would help their finances. As Angela Jung reports, when the amount was revealed, hope turned to disappointment – Apr 21, 2024

B.C. man James Schultz lives with bipolar disorder.

He has been anxiously awaiting Canada’s federal budget, hoping it will help lift him out of poverty, as he is reliant on government support.

“I was looking forward to the idea of being able to be brought up above the poverty line,” he told Global News.

“Provincial disability rates sit at $1,480. I was thinking that the federal government’s new disability plan would at least get me bumped up to about $2,000 or $2,100 (a month).”

Now, after seeing the federal plan, Schultz said he feels behind the eight ball.

The Liberals first introduced a bill to create the Canada Disability Benefit nearly two years ago.

The Canada Disability Benefits Act became law last summer.

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The purpose was to reduce poverty and provide financial security for disabled community members.

Click to play video: '‘It’s helping no one’: Critics take aim at new Canada Disability Benefit'
‘It’s helping no one’: Critics take aim at new Canada Disability Benefit

In Tuesday’s budget announcement, the amount of that benefit was revealed.

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Canada has earmarked $6.1 billion for the benefit, which will be spread out over six years. It is estimated that 600,000 Canadians are eligible for the benefit.

With those numbers, it means eligible Canadians will get about $200 a month.

“It was almost like a dagger going through my heart — a real letdown,” Schultz said. “After finding out that it was only $200, it was very disheartening.”

Another blow, people must be eligible for the disability tax credit to qualify for the new benefit. Advocates said the tax credit program already excludes many people who are living with disabilities.

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“We’re not convinced it’s even going to reach that many people. We’re hoping we can do some quick reform,” Karla Verschoor, with Inclusion BC, said. “I think the message was loud and clear that people were disappointed and frustrated.”

Global News asked Canada’s Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland to respond to criticism that the new benefit does little to lift some out of poverty.

“I agree with your question that it would be great to be able to do more and we aspire to that,” she said. “This is a big step, and better is always possible in Canada. We need to keep working hard.”

But those words provided little comfort to Schultz.

“It leaves somebody like myself struggling to buy groceries. Ninety per cent of my provincial disability amount goes to just bills alone. So it leaves myself in a very desperate split base,” Schultz said.

Schultz is hoping the province will increase the provincial disability assistance sooner rather than later.

Click to play video: 'Future of Work: The benefits of employing people with disabilities.'
Future of Work: The benefits of employing people with disabilities.

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