Alberta’s Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney said Saturday there will be no cuts made to the province’s Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program.
“Let me provide you with some reassurance,” said Sawhney in a Facebook post. “First, please know that no changes have been made to the AISH program. Second, the focus of my review has been on service delivery, and finding ways to streamline operations. I will continue with that review. Third, I know you don’t feel like it at the moment, but I ask that you trust me. I am very protective of all CSS clients and vulnerable Albertans. I’m doing my very best for all of you.
“Finally, to conclude, let me state definitively that there will be no cuts to AISH financial benefits.”
Sawhney’s comments come after an article from Postmedia published Friday said the government was looking at making cuts to the income program.
While Sawhney confirmed her ministry was reviewing the service in a separate post on social media Friday, she said the review is part of an ongoing process for multiple services.
“We review every aspect of our ministry because we need to ensure that supports continue to be available to those who need them the most, now and into the future.”
According to the government, the program supports nearly 70,000 Albertans with permanent medical issues that prevent them from working with a basic benefit of $1,685 per month.
The UCP did make some changes to AISH for 2020 — when it said it would not be adjusting the AISH benefit amount as costs of living in the province increase, a policy that was brought in by the NDP in 2018.
Sawhney defended the amount the government was putting towards AISH Friday.
“AISH funding actually went up by 6.2 per cent compared to the previous year forecast, and at $1.29 billion we currently have the highest budget for AISH in Alberta’s history,” she said.
The NDP said in a news release on Saturday that while it was relieved to see the AISH benefits would not be cut, there are still concerns around cost of living increases.
“It is still not enough for the community that has seen their benefits clawed back and de-indexed by the UCP,” said Marie Renaud, the NDP community and social service critic. “When this government de-indexed AISH from the rate of inflation, they cut AISH.
“Now that the minister has committed to rejecting the plan for proposed cuts, we now call on her to develop a plan to actually support program growth and immediately reintroduce indexing of AISH.”
Inclusion Alberta also said Friday that the concerns over AISH payments add more stresses during an already stressful time.
“It is almost impossible to put into words the degree of fear and anxiety this government is adding to children and adults with disabilities and their families over and above having to struggle with the overwhelming impact of COVID-19,” Barb MacIntyre, the president of Inclusion Alberta, said Friday.