Locals happy to see $400 increase to AISH
Premier Alison Redford made good on a campaign promise and raised AISH payments by $400 month, a move local groups are applauding as improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.
Effective April 1, the maximum monthly benefit for people receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped will increase from $1,158 to $1,558. The government also doubled the amount an AISH recipient can make through working before it’s taken off their monthly AISH cheques from $400 to $800.
AISH is program for Albertans who can’t work full time because of a permanent mental or physical disability.
Redford said she would make the increases during her campaign for premier and came through during the latest budget.
“A healthy society looks after its most vulnerable,” Redford said in a news release.
“This increase reflects the compassion of Albertans and will help individuals on AISH enhance their quality of life.”
Gwen Bilodeau, executive director of Lac La Biche Disability Services, said the move will help local AISH recipients who struggle to make ends meet.
“People are very pleased [Redford] followed through with her promise to raise AISH,” Bilodeau said. “Lac La Biche has high rent – it’s a special challenge for some people to live here. Sometimes people are looking at rent as high as $1,375 a month, so the AISH increase is a very positive move forward.”
Bilodeau said that it’s not just rent in Lac La Biche that’s expensive: after food, transportation, and clothing there’s not much left for social activities or to save for the future. While she said the increase is much appreciated, she would like to see AISH payments keep pace with the cost of living.
The extra $400 a month will go a long way for people who rely on the regular cheques for food and shelter. Sonya King has been on AISH since May of 2002 and remembers that she was only getting $796 a month then. King, who also works part-time at the Lac La Biche Post office as a cleaner, said the extra money means she won’t have to worry as much about her monthly bills.
“I feel it’s great,” King said. “It’s going to help with the cost of groceries and bills. And now I’ll have money to save for other interests.”
She added that doubling the allowed monthly employment earnings is a great way to get people on AISH to work more.
“I think it’s excellent – it’s more incentive to work,” King said.
Catherine Carlson, a disability support worker who works with King, has 20 years experience in social work and said the AISH increase will improve the quality of life of people who otherwise can’t work full-time because of their disabilities.
“Because AISH was so low, lots of people were forced to live in group homes,” Carlson said. “Now, they can have the choice to look for a better home or even find their own place to live.”
For some, unforeseen medical expenses can mean going over the tight budget forced on people living on AISH. Lac La Biche Library Board member Ron Cofer, who has been on AISH since 1975, recently travelled to Edmonton for medical treatment – which meant after food, rent, and other bills his monthly expenses came to $1,600.
He said the $400 monthly increase would help him from having to dig into his saving every time he has to travel outside of the community for medical reasons.
“It’s very good – plus my rent is probably going to go up, as well as my power and utility bills,” Cofer said. “It’s going to help quite a bit.”
In 2012-13, about 46,000 Albertans with severe and permanent disabilities will receive money through AISH. There is $271 million set aside in the latest budget to cover the cost of the AISH increase.
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