Minister vows ‘no cuts’ to AISH benefits as UCP reverses course on possible reductions

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Don Slater, who has been an AISH recipient for about 10 years, said Sawhney’s announcement comes as “a great relief to the disabled community” that would alleviate “a lot of anxiety and fear.”

“The people in the community are in absolute poverty, so it’s always a matter of trading off something you must have for something else you must have. It just diminishes people,” said Slater.

“When things are clawed back, there’s no way of getting out of poverty. The less that a government or a charity gives a person, the less they are able to survive life.”

Slater said many forced to rely on AISH for food and rent money are “already in a horrible state of depression because of isolation.”

“It’s important that benefit programs are a foundation and not a ceiling,” he said.

NDP community and social services critic Marie Renaud said she was “relieved” by Sawhney’s commitment not to defund AISH. But she called on the government to provide further supports for those living with disabilities.

In late 2019, the government announced the de-indexation of AISH payments from inflation, meaning benefits would no longer increase with the rising cost of living. The UCP allocated $1.29 billion for AISH in its 2020 budget, tabled in February.

Alberta NDP Community and Social Services Critic Marie Renaud held a news conference supporting AISH and income support impacted by COVID-19 and to provide greater support, in Edmonton, April 6, 2020. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia
Alberta NDP Community and social services critic Marie Renaud Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

“When this Government de-indexed AISH from the rate of inflation they cut AISH,” Renaud said in a statement.

“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.”

Renaud also called on the UCP to consult with Albertans on the status of the AISH review, after advocates said they felt left out of the process.

“We call on her to commit to being transparent and having clear and honest communications with Alberta to prevent the kind of fear and confusion they have created since their attack on disabilities supports began,” Renaud said.
Twitter: @SammyHudes

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