Saskatchewan

Advocates, SAID recipients call for $100/month increase to disability program following election

Advocates are calling on all political parties to support the increase.

Advocates call on all political parties to support the increase

Charlene Eger is a recipient of SAID, the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability funding program. She said an extra $100 per month would allow her to get the protein in her diet she needs and potentially see her family more. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Advocates and people on the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program are calling for an increase in how much the program pays after the election. 

The Saskatchewan Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC) said people with disabilities on SAID haven't had an increase since 2015 and that with inflation, it's becoming more difficult for them to afford the necessities. 

DISC is calling for a $100 per month increase for the program over the next five years. After that, DISC wants indexed increases to match the rate of inflation.

Charlene Eger has spina bifida and is on the SAID program. She said certain aspects of her life are difficult with the current payments, whether it's seeing her family that live out of town or simply buying the groceries she needs. 

"I should be eating a lot of protein. The price of meat nowadays is really expensive. So having that extra hundred would help," Eger said.

"It would help a lot." 

Charlene Eger is a recipient of the SAID program. She said the extra $100 per month would help with groceries and seeing her family. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

DISC chair Alaina Harrison said Eger isn't alone in her struggle. Harrison said many people on the program have special dietary requirements, but wholesome meals are beyond their price range. Recipients also struggle with rent and transportation, she said.

"Some recipients can't even keep a roof over their heads due to the absence of housing that is both accessible and affordable," Harrison said. 

People living month-to-month have no money saved up in case of an unexpected expense, she said. 

"We are hoping all political candidates will take this issue seriously," she said. 

Alaina Harrison is the chair of the Saskatchewan Disability Income Support Coalition. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

The SAID program was launched in 2009 for people with significant and enduring disabilities. Harrison said it was supposed to allow recipients to have a greater quality of life than in the past. Funding amounts are calculated individually, but a single adult living in Regina would get about $1,064 per month for living expenses on average, Harrison said. 

"The rapidly increasing cost of living in our province is offsetting some of these gains," she said. "Without immediate action. It will become even harder for SAID recipients to meet everyday challenges."

The coalition is asking candidates to advocate for the increase regardless of their political affiliation. Harrison said she is optimistic the government will implement the increase after the provincial election. 

David Nelson is the program consultant for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Saskatchewan Branch. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

David Nelson, senior program consultant at Canadian Mental Health Association Saskatchewan Division, said people lose more of their buying power each year because the price of inflation continues to grow. He said indexed increases based on inflation are a key part of to the coalition's request.

Nelson pointed to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) launched during the pandemic. The federal government decided that CERB should pay about $2,000 per month to replace a person's wages. That's the amount Nelson would like to see SAID recipients get in the future. 

"One of the key principles of the program was to allow people to function as a full citizen in our society. Now, that means being able to go and visit friends. It means able to be connected up with the rest of the world by having like a cell phone or a computer," Nelson said.

Nelson said the government has not responded positively to the idea because of the cost. 

"People are falling behind," he said. "We really do urge the government to reconsider that and to put more effort into realizing that they are slipping off the page with the whole principle of what this program was meant to be."

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