British Columbia

B.C. increases allowable assets for people with disabilities

Disabled people receiving assistance in British Columbia will soon be able to have more assets and receive cash gifts without losing their monthly government payments.

Asset threshold increasing to $100K from only $5K as of Dec. 1

B.C. residents with disabilities will soon be able to have more assets and accept more cash gifts without affecting their disability payments. (CBC)

Families of disabled people broke down in tears after the British Columbia government announced their loved ones won't lose monthly assistance payments just for getting more financial help.

As of Dec. 1, the amount in assets that disabled people can hold will rise to $100,000 for individuals who have the persons with disabilities designation and $200,000 for couples in the same situation.

Currently, the asset limits are $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for couples.

Kathy Bromley could barely contain her emotions Thursday in the reception hall at the legislature.

"On behalf of our family, we thank you for recognizing our daughter, a hard-working, important and contributing member of society," Bromley said.

The change means B.C. and Alberta will have the highest allowable asset levels for people with disabilities in Canada.

In B.C., disabled people will also be able to receive cash more than once and still be eligible for assistance.

Higher asset limits mean money from an inheritance doesn't have to be put aside in a trust, and the current $8,000 annual cap on trust payments will be eliminated.

Minister of Social Development Michelle Stilwell said the new rules will break down barriers and create financial security for people with disabilities.

"We heard from families and stakeholders who asked us to make it easier for people who are receiving disability assistance to save for their future and to let family members provide support to those individuals," Stilwell said of consultations held last year.

Mixed reaction from critics

The NDP's social development critic Michelle Mungall said the government has taken a positive step for families who have been frustrated by not being able to contribute financially without their relatives losing disability payments.

However, Mungall said disabled women who get employment insurance during maternity leave will still have their disability benefits clawed back and their working rights need to be respected.

"I'm hoping that in the next few years, and even shorter would be nice, that we'll see an end to that and that the government will respect the working rights of people with disabilities as well."

Prof. Michael Prince in the University of Victoria's Faculty of Human and Social Development, welcomed the change, saying taking away disability payments has had a corrosive effect on people who've feared taking jobs.

"There was such a concern that that will cost them benefits or their health care," Prince said, adding he's glad to see an end to a "culture of monitoring and surveillance."

"It was a signal from government: 'Don't you dare help your kids because then we'll pull back the dollars."'

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