Living with a disability brings with it many barriers. One of the biggest barriers, in my experience, is poverty. My name is Amy Park and I am a human rights activist, who lives with a disability.
In Alberta we have an income support program known as Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH). Recipients of this program—myself included—receive a monthly allowance of $1,588.00. This also includes benefits for medical, dental, and a few others. As well, if you’re a parent you receive $100.00 per child for child care. AISH allows you to have a job and make up to $800.00 a month before your monthly allowance is deducted. A person on AISH can also save up to $100,000.00 before their benefits are discontinued. Now that I’ve explained how this program works, allow me to explain why it doesn’t work.
On April 1st, 2012 AISH was increased from $1,188.00 to $1,588.00, this means it has been 6 years since the benefits have been increased. Recently, the Alberta government announced that on October 1st, 2018 minimum wage will go up from $13.60 to $15.00 an hour. This is a $5.25 increase from 2012 when minimum wage was $9.75 an hour.
“Not increasing AISH will mean more homelessness, more people needing to use the food bank, and an even longer wait list for low income housing than we already have.”
In 2012, with AISH being increased it meant that recipients were making close to what a minimum wage earner was making at that time based on a 40-hour work week. However, when minimum wage goes up in October, and with AISH not being increased, recipients will receive $5.08 less an hour than a person receiving minimum wage.
As is the case whenever minimum wage is increased, so is the cost of living. Housing, gas prices, groceries and many other costs increase. While this might be ok for a person on AISH that is also able to work, for those that cannot it will push them further down the poverty line. Not increasing AISH will mean more homelessness, more people needing to use the food bank, and an even longer wait list for low income housing than we already have.
Currently, more than 15,000 people in Alberta are on a wait list for housing. If AISH is not increased, or indexed with the cost of living, this number will only get bigger.
I feel fortunate that I am able to work and get supports if needed; However, for many people with disabilities this is not a reality. The role of any government is to ensure that all of its citizens are afforded the same rights. These rights include shelter, food and clothing just to name a few. By not doing anything, by keeping a large population in poverty, that is a human rights violation. My hope is that something is done soon before we have an even bigger problem on our hands.