B.C. government set to increase welfare rates and disability assistance
Income assistance rates have been frozen at $610 a month for a decade
The B.C. government is increasing income and disability assistance rates by $100 a month. The extra money will be tacked onto assistance cheques starting Sept. 20.
The B.C. Liberal government froze income assistance at $610 a month a decade ago. Those on welfare will now receive $710 per month.
The new monthly disability assistance rates will be $1,133 per person.
"Lifting families out of poverty starts with raising income assistance rates and assistance for people with disabilities. We're raising the rates to support people and help them live in dignity," said Premier John Horgan in a statement.
The increases will cost $180 million per year.
Advocates have been calling for disability rate increases to be pegged to inflation, which may still come from the NDP.
The government says the increases will move the province from one of the lowest assistance rates in the country to the third-highest among Canadian provinces. On Tuesday, the NDP created a new ministry and parliamentary secretary tasked with reducing poverty in B.C.
"Raising the rates is only the beginning. Our government is committed to bring forward a comprehensive poverty reduction plan to lift children and families out of poverty," added Horgan in a statement.
The former Liberal government had faced stiff criticism for a perceived lack of attention to disability rates.
In April, the province increased disability assistance rates by $50 per month, and the year before, persons with disabilities lost their bus pass program. Shane Simpson, the new minister of social development and poverty reduction, says they are considering bringing back the bus pass.
"Just like many things, after you get the files, you discovered there are choices and options," said Simpson.
Disability advocate Faith Bodnar is applauding the quick action by the government. Bodnar says the hope now is that future increases are pegged to inflation.
"The fact that there is a poverty reduction strategy gives us a real opportunity to look at a longer term plan about rates," said Bodnar.