FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Victoria - Yesterday the Government of British Columbia announced the first increase to provincial disabilities benefits since 2007 - a long overdue and much needed lift for British Columbians with disabilities who have been living in poverty for so long. In the same breath, the Government cancelled the Annual Bus Pass Program, forcing these same individuals, some of BC’s most vulnerable, to use their new increase to pay $52/month for a bus pass they used to get for $45/year leaving people to choose between transportation and food.
“The way this rate increase is being portrayed by the government is misleading to those who depend on every dollar to survive. Can you imagine? After budgeting $906/month for the past nine years, the government finally tells you that will be receiving an additional $77/month, this is huge! Then, in the next breath and hidden in fine print, you are told you now have an added expenditure of $52/month for your transportation” said Kelly Newhook, Executive Director of TAPS. “It’s yet another example of give with one hand and take away with the other”.
The government announced no increase to basic income assistance rates, they will remain at $610/month, as they have since 2007.
“Receiving only $610 month from the government means people must spend every cent on housing, leaving them with nothing and forcing them to use food banks, live without a phone or computer, have little to no heat, and rely on friends and family. Finding a job under such circumstances is next to impossible”, said Jennifer Matthews, Income Assistance Legal Advocate at TAPS, “these people desperately need an increase in rates, yet they are ignored by this government once again.”
The budget also included a significant investment of $286 million to address ‘caseload pressures’ in income assistance, disability assistance and related supplementary benefits, including $36 million to Community Living BC.
“We hope these monies will be used wisely to address the atrocious and ongoing access issues our clients experience when trying to get assistance. A problem that has developed through years of underspending.” stated Newhook