Starting Wednesday morning, eligible parents and seniors in Alberta were able to apply for the government’s affordability payments.
The payment program is aimed at helping people trying to cope with the rising cost of living. The online portal through which people can apply opened at 9 a.m.
Those who qualify can receive up to $600 over six months.
In a news release, the government said families with household incomes below $180,000 are eligible to receive $100 per month for six months for each dependent child under 18. Meanwhile, seniors 65 or older who have household incomes below $180,000 and who do not receive the Alberta Seniors Benefit can also apply for monthly payments. The government will use 2021 tax data to verify user eligibility.
“This will be the chance for Albertans to go online, determine their eligibility, log in and apply for their affordability payments,” said Nate Glubish, Minister of Technology and Innovation. “The good news is any Albertans who already receive AISH, income supports, PDD or Alberta seniors benefits — they are all automatically enrolled and need to take no action to take advantage of these affordability payments.”
Those who apply will need to have a “verified account” on the Alberta government website. If this is the first time you’re signing up for an account, an Alberta driver’s licence or an Alberta I.D. card will be required.
“You are able to sign up for direct deposit for your payments, which I think Albertans will find very convenient,” Glubish said. “It will allow us to get those payments into Albertans’ bank accounts much more quickly than by issuing a cheque.”
Anyone who cannot easily use the portal will be able to apply in person through any registry agent or Alberta Supports in 50 locations.
It was expected that thousands would be signing up for the payment Wednesday. Glubish said in the past two months, the government developed the portal and ran it through various tests so it would not only be easy to use, but also secure.
“We’re confident that this will be able to scale with the kind of interest that Albertans will have in the system.”
Applications will be accepted any time between Jan. 18 and June 30. Once the application process is completed, most Albertans will receive payments at the end of that month, though the exact timing will vary.
Glubish said although the government could have gone through the Canada Revenue Agency to create the portal, it would have taken a lot longer for it to come to fruition. He said he’s confident in what his team has worked hard on in the past few months.
“I have been saying for a long time, we need to apply more technology and innovation in everything we do in government to deliver better quality services. This is my first opportunity to deliver something along those lines,” Glubish said.
The estimated total cost of the support payment program will be $900 million, according to the government.
Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said she believes the provincial government’s affordability program is missing some people who need financial help but will not be eligible because they are not parents or seniors.
Notley mentioned the challenges facing post-secondary students and the increasing pressure they are facing because of the rising cost of living.
“The UCP has piled on even more costs and chaos by massively hiking up tuition costs and charging extra interest on student debt above the prime rate, which is already climbing steeply,” she said Wednesday. “We need a real and competent long-term plan to address the affordability crisis.
“Albertans need to know that there is a stable and competent government in their corner as they confront a cost-of-living crisis not seen in a lifetime.”
Notley added that she believes some UCP policies, like moving price caps on auto insurance, have made Albertans’ financial situations even more difficult.
Hiccups at the start
Since the 9 a.m. launch, Global News has received a handful of emails and calls from Albertans saying the portal was not working for them.
One person who emailed said they had been trying to get through but just kept getting a blank screen to the portal. They said it was “déjà vu all over again” from applying to other benefit programs in the past.
“After signing in, (the) screen goes blank for me and just sits there,” another person added.
Meantime, a government spokesperson said as of 9 a.m., close to 40,000 Albertans had successfully submitted applications through the portal.
“Due to this high demand, some users have experienced slower than usual site speeds; however, our team is working diligently to ensure the site is running as smoothly as possible.”