City preparing to help low-income Calgarians cope with provincial policy change

The City of Calgary will take steps to help low-income people affected by the province's decision to change when it sends money to those on income support programs.

Province changing date for payment of income supports and AISH

The City of Calgary will take steps to help those who rely on income support programs, such as those who may run into issues with Calgary Transit's monthly low-income transit passes. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The City of Calgary will take steps to help low-income people affected by the province's decision to change when it sends money to those on income support programs.

The UCP government announced in January that it's shifting the date for making those payments from a few days before the end of the month to the first day of the month.

If the first day of a month doesn't fall on a weekday, then the money will go out on the last business day of the previous month.

Most recipients get that money through a direct deposit in a bank account.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city will do what it can to help thousands of low-income Calgarians who rely on those payments.

"This is not a good change. It is really disruptive to some of the most vulnerable people in our community," he said.

Additional cost, inconvenience

For example, most people who qualify for Calgary Transit's monthly low-income transit pass line up to purchase their pass in the final days of the month.

Nenshi said now some of those people who may not have enough money to buy the pass ahead of time will likely join a huge lineup on the first day of the month, when they receive their income support or AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) payments.

That opens up another problem.

"How are you going to get to the place where you buy your bus pass without having to pay another fare?" Nenshi said. 

He said it could mean someone has to pay a $3.50 adult transit fare to pick up a monthly low-income pass, which costs $5.45.

"These are things I wish the provincial government had considered and consulted on before making this decision." 

City looking at opening office

Given March 1 falls on a Sunday, the province will make the support payments on February 28.

Nenshi said the city is looking at opening its Calgary Transit customer service centre on Seventh Avenue S.W. downtown on February 29 to sell passes.

The centre normally only operates Monday to Friday. In this case, Nenshi said the city would have to absorb the cost of the additional day of operation.

As for what happens in future months, Nenshi said city council may have to look at amending its transit bylaw, but no details on changes were discussed at Thursday's meeting of council's intergovernmental affairs committee.

"At the city, we are committed to make sure that vulnerable people are not hurt by this transition. It's not our decision, but we will work hard to make sure that we're managing the impacts."


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