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Coronavirus: Support for people with disabilities inadequate, says N.B. advocate

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 support for people with disabilities inadequate says advocate' COVID-19 support for people with disabilities inadequate says advocate
WATCH: N.B. people with disabilities say COVID-19 support from the federal and provincial governments is not enough to cover added expenses. Shelley Steeves has more. – Jul 23, 2020

On Tuesday, the House of Commons passed Bill-20 allowing for a one-time payment of $600 to people who qualify for the disability tax credit, if approved by the senate.

But advocates say that isn’t nearly enough.

Ability New Brunswick executive director, Haley Flaro, says people with disabilities need more financial support to pay for added expense brought on by COVID-19.

READ MORE: COVID-19 disability benefit, even if approved, would ‘miss all kinds of people’

“Our clients have had to purchase personal protective equipment in addition to the cleaning supplies. They have also had to pay for delivery costs because neighbours and family members and support workers often have not been available to provide that assistance,” said Flaro.

Flaro says people with disabilities should be getting financial help every month for as long as the pandemic persists.

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“The amount should have been greater. it should have been comparable to the CERB and the benefits seniors have been receiving because the costs are similar if not higher,” she said.

READ MORE: Liberals fail to win support for latest CERB bill on fraud fines, jail time

Ability NB is also calling on the provincial government to increase disability benefits by at least $300 a month for as long as the pandemic lasts, said Flaro.

“Similar to Manitoba and B.C. which ensured they prioritized that very quickly,” she said.

Christel Robichaud of Grande-Dugue, NB is living on less than $800 a month of disability benefits. She said the only way she can make ends meet amid the pandemic is to live with her father.

Click to play video: 'Woman says New Brunswick social development system is broken' Woman says New Brunswick social development system is broken
Woman says New Brunswick social development system is broken – Nov 19, 2019

“Food is quite expensive especially for someone who is diabetic and has to actually eat well enough,” she said.

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While Robichaud said she is grateful for the one-time payment in federal support, it isn’t nearly enough. Last month alone she said she was $150 in the hole trying to make ends meet.

“You already had debt and that is going to be gone that easily,” she said.

In an effort to support the most vulnerable during the pandemic, the province increased benefits by five per cent in May for anyone on social assistance, according to Abigail McCarthy, communications officer for the New Brunswick Department of Social Development.

“Although currently there are no plans to introduce additional Income Assistance benefits, the Department remains committed to the ongoing delivery of our SA (Social Assistance) programs,” she stated in an email to Global News.

Robichaud said she was “very disappointed” and that it was “not really fair.”

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