We're calling on the Government of British Columbia to maintain the $300/month increase to income and disability assistance rates, and permanently raise income assistance rates to at least the poverty line, indexed to inflation.
In April 2020, the Government of British Columbia introduced a $300 supplement to disability assistance rates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was broadly welcomed by advocates. This increase raised the base amount of disability assistance to $1,483.42 a month, or $17,801.04 annually, and the base amount of income assistance to $1060.00 a month, or $12,720 annually. The poverty line, as defined by the Government of British Columbia, is $20,000 per year for individuals.
On December 8, 2020, Minister of Finance Selina Robinson announced that starting on December 18 families and individuals could apply for the BC COVID Recovery Benefit, a one-time payment of up to $1,000 per family or $500 per individual based on income. The government further announced that they would not claw back the BC Recovery Benefit from people receiving income or disability assistance, but they would reduce the $300 monthly supplement to $150, and discontinue it in March of 2021.
This decision will increase income to some recipients by $50 by the end of March, but some recipients will not qualify and will immediately lose $150 a month in income, and all recipients will experience a sharp reduction in income in April 2021. Further, in all cases this removes a crucial lifeline that people relied on during the ongoing pandemic, causes significant additional uncertainty and fear, and ultimately leaves them below the poverty line. Since many pandemic-related increased expenses disproportionately affect disabled people, the BC Recovery Benefit will therefore provide the least assistance to low-income disabled British Columbians who need it most.
At our January regular meeting, VDLC delegates voted to endorse the petition “Increase B.C. Income and Disability Assistance Rates: We Need The #300ToLive!” which calls for the Government of British Columbia to maintain the $300/month increase to income and disability assistance rates;
permanently raise income assistance rates to at least the poverty line, indexed to inflation; and ensure that increases to income assistance and disability assistance include a clear, earmarked increase to the shelter portion.
In addition, the Labour Council has sent a letter of its own to Premier John Horgan, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Nicholas Simons, and Minister of Finance Selina Robinson.