by Colin Smith
Changing the date on which Albertans receiving AISH and Income Support get their monthly payments may seem like a simple administrative move.
But the change, made by the provincial government without consulting the more than 67,000 AISH recipients and 60,000 who receive Income Supports could put them at financial risk, according to St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud, NDP Opposition Critic for Community and Social Services.
AISH and Income Support payments have been made a few days before the end of the month, a usual practice with social benefits. An annual payment schedule was issued, and one had been released for 2020.
A few days later the monthly payment date was changed to the first of the month, beginning in March.
A government statement said this was intended to provide a predictable and consistent payment date that would help recipients plan and budget for expenses.
“This decision is wrong and it will impact Albertans’ ability to pay rent, pay bills, buy groceries and so much more,” said Renaud.
She said her office has been inundated with phone calls, letters, and emails from people worried about the impact the change will have on their ability to pay their rent on time or get their transit passes at the beginning of the month.
“This is not a group of people who have a lot of savings or extra resources. These are very real problems.”
In its October budget, the UCP government announced it would stop indexing AISH and Income Support to the cost of living but would keep monthly payments at the same level, $1,685 for a single person.
In addition, it has altered the AISH Act so that major program changes can be made by the government without debate in the Legislature, according to Renaud.
“So there has been a long series of attacks on this group,” she said.
Renaud also pointed to the fact that changes push a twelfth of the AISH and IS budgets into the next fiscal year, about $189 million that will not show up as part of this year’s provincial budget deficit.
“This is a cruel and callous decision that treats Albertans on AISH and Income Support as numbers on a spreadsheet rather than human beings.”
Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney should reverse this decision and apologize for careless treatment of Albertans on AISH and Income Support, she believes.
“They need to stop and listen to the people who are going to be affected,” said Renaud.