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Coronavirus: British Columbians on disability assistance say supplement not enough

B.C. government announces help for low-income and disability assistance
WATCH: B.C. government announces help for low-income and disability assistance

British Columbians who are not eligible for the emergency federal support program and who do not receive income or disability assistance will now get an automatic $300 monthly COVID-19 crisis supplement for the next three months.

The province expects around 205,000 people to be eligible for the boost, which will be on the April 22 cheque.

New support announced today for British Columbians on income and disability assistance
New support announced today for British Columbians on income and disability assistance

“We are putting in place measures that complement the federal crisis measures to support our most vulnerable populations and ensure they do not fall deeper into poverty as a result of COVID-19,” Minister of Social Development Shane Simpson said.

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“This is a stressful time for everyone, but for those struggling to put food on the table at the best of times, it is important that we ensure there are no additional barriers to get what they need to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy.”

B.C. Budget 2019: Increase disability and welfare assistance
B.C. Budget 2019: Increase disability and welfare assistance

Currently, a single person on disability receives $1,183 a month, making for a total of $1,483 with the COVID-19 supplement. A single parent with two kids on disability receives $1,609 a month, for a total of $1,909 with the supplement.

Catherine Richardson, who receives disability assistance because of an auto-immune disease, said the supplement still leaves many below the poverty line because many other resources for those living on disability are no longer available.

READ MORE: Canada’s health-care system isn’t designed for parents with disabilities: experts

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“Something is better than nothing. (But) I am pretty disappointed. It’s still 30 per cent below the poverty line,” Richardson said, adding that the minimum to live on in Canada is understood to be $2,000 a month.

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The supplement will also go to low-income seniors who receive the B.C. Senior’s Supplement and recipients of income or disability assistance who live in special care facilities.

The province is also getting rid of claw-backs for people receiving income or disability assistance who are eligible for the new $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

READ MORE: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit for COVID-19: who’s eligible and how to apply

 

However, the province is not allowing those on disability to be eligible for the $500 COVID-19 grant to help renters, which Richardson called unfair.

The money should also be provided more quickly because many on social assistance are having a hard time getting to the end of the month, she said, and resources like food banks are not safe because of the risk of virus transmission.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. housing minister says ‘help is on the way’ for renters, homeless

“The population we are talking with — we have higher baseline costs than the average people,” Richardson said.

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“For medications, we have to pay out of pocket, for physiotherapy, mental health services, we still need to pay out of pocket. A lot which is needed to live with a disability is not covered and ends up begin an out-of-pocket cost.”

The province will also provide all BC Bus Pass Program users on social assistance with a $52 transportation supplement for the duration of the transit fare suspension.

READ MORE: Know a B.C. health-care hero? Share your stories and photos

The support for people on disability, especially young people, is far less than what’s been provided for seniors, Richardson said.

“There has been so much messaging helping seniors, and looking out for seniors — that is so important. But there are do many younger disabled people who are not getting the help they need right now.”