Applications now open for Alberta government affordability payments

Starting Jan. 18,  eligible Albertans can apply for government affordability payments. Seniors, parents and vulnerable people are eligible for $100 per month for six months.  (Peter Scobie/CBC - image credit)
Starting Jan. 18, eligible Albertans can apply for government affordability payments. Seniors, parents and vulnerable people are eligible for $100 per month for six months. (Peter Scobie/CBC - image credit)

Albertans eligible for $600 in affordability payments from the province can now apply.

Nathan Neudorf, deputy premier and minister of Infrastructure, posted on Twitter after 8 p.m. Wednesday, that the portal had received 92,000 applications for payments to about 160,000 people, including 120,000 children.

The province created a new web portal to handle up to two million applications.

Some users had difficulty accessing the site on Wednesday.

Farmer said so many people were trying to log on, the page's responses slowed down.

"Our team is working diligently to ensure the site is running as smoothly as possible," she said.

The payments, to be made in $100 instalments over the next six months, were announced by the United Conservative government earlier this month as a way to help Albertans contend with the rising cost of living.

Starting Wednesday, people could apply for the payments, through an online portal or in person at registry offices throughout the province.

The payments are being offered to seniors and children in households with annual incomes lower than than $180,000.

Calgary senior Myrna Nerbas is among those who experienced technical frustrations with the website.

She said other provinces with affordability payment programs worked through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to provide direct deposits to bank accounts and doesn't know why Alberta didn't do the same.

"This government seems to want to pick a fight with Ottawa," she said. "So we can't use the Canada Revenue Agency, is that what it is? I would hate to think they would do that to their own citizens, but you never know."

Ministers have said they thought the payments would be delayed too long if they used the CRA.

Nerbas checked in advance that she had a verified provincial government account online before the portal started taking applications. But on Wednesday morning, the site wouldn't accept her application. She said the site told her she needed a verified account — which she says she has.

When she dialled a provincial call centre for help, a recorded message told her no one could answer due to a high volume of calls. She also emailed for technical assistance and received an automated reply with troubleshooting tips.

As the rising costs of groceries and gas strain her budget, Nerbas said she'll consider going in person to a registry or Alberta Supports office for help, if the line-up isn't too long.

"It's a struggle," she said about managing her budget. "There are other people that are worse off, but it is still a struggle. I would appreciate this help, and I'm grateful for it. If I can ever get it."

Cliff Kinzel, an 82-year-old from Calgary, said it took him about 15-20 minutes to apply online for payments for himself and his wife, and the process went smoothly.

He said their pensions are enough to cover expenses, but not save, so they'll sock away the affordability payments for unplanned costs and make a charitable donation.

More than two million Albertans are expected to benefit from the program, which will cost the provincial government about $900 million.

About 300,000 others — enrolled in provincial benefit programs like Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Income Support — will automatically receive the first of six monthly payments on Jan. 31.

Who is eligible? 

Seniors 65 or older who are not receiving the Alberta Seniors Benefit are eligible and can apply.

Albertans receiving the seniors benefit are automatically enrolled in the program and do not need to sign up. The distribution of additional monthly payments to them will begin Jan. 31.

Parents who are approved will receive $100 for each child.  Legally separated parents who have shared custody can apply. Each parent in a shared custody arrangement should apply separately and will receive half of the payment.

Eligible kinship or foster caregivers will be automatically enrolled in the program and will receive their first payments at the end of January.

The Opposition NDP raised concerns on Wednesday that cash-strapped post-secondary students are ineligible for the benefit.

In late November, Premier Danielle Smith announced plans to help Albertans cope with the rising cost of living.

The support payments are one of several measures the province is taking. In all, the Affordability Action Plan initiatives are set to cost $2.8 billion over three years.

How to apply

Applications for the affordability payments can be submitted at account.alberta.ca, To use the portal, eligible Albertans will need a verified account.

Applications can be submitted until June 30. Payments will be retroactive to include previous months when a person was eligible.