Islanders with disabilities welcome bill introducing federal benefit — even if it's light on details

·2 min read
The federal government re-introduced legislation on Thursday to create a monthly benefit for working-age Canadians with disabilities. (CBC - image credit)
The federal government re-introduced legislation on Thursday to create a monthly benefit for working-age Canadians with disabilities. (CBC - image credit)

Islanders with disabilities say a new monthly benefit from the federal government could go a long way to help them cover the cost of living.

The legislation to create the benefit was re-introduced on Thursday after being delayed when the 2021 federal election was called. It will target working-age Canadians with disabilities, though the bill itself does not set the monetary value of the payments or the qualification criteria.

Nevertheless, advocates said any sort of help is overdue.

"It's looking good. It's basically going to be a guaranteed income support, which I think is going to be essential for, certainly most Canadians, but definitely anybody with a disability," said Alan Stanley, community outreach coordinator at Spinal Cord Injury P.E.I.

"We don't know the amounts, we don't know if this is going to be in addition to provincial benefits or to top them up. So there's going to be a lot of back and forth on that. My fear is that it's going to take years to implement. We'll see."

Stanley said the benefit would make people with disabilities feel more financially secure when paying for food and shelter, as well as additional expenses associated with being disabled.

"Some of that is just the cost of the equipment, some of it is requiring specialized transportation," he said. "Some of our medical supplies are covered, but not all of them."

Devon Broome, acting executive director with ResourceAbilities, said she hopes the eligibility criteria is broad enough — and that the new benefit doesn't mean people lose money they're getting from other programs.

"I think there needs to be collaboration with the provincial governments as well," she said. "That's one of the things [Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough] has spoken to publicly," she said.

"If someone is receiving a new financial benefit, we don't want there to be a clawback from some of the financial benefits that they're receiving already."

No room for error

CBC/Laura Meader
CBC/Laura Meader

Kurtis Kelly's right leg was amputated and he uses a wheelchair to get around. Kelly doesn't have a job at the moment, though he does a lot of low-paying contract work.

"I'm currently on assistance, and even on assistance it's very difficult to manage the budget," he said. "It's a juggling act, and right now I'm able to get by. But it doesn't leave me any room for error."

Kelly said minimum wage is "barely enough" for anyone to get by, and people with disabilities often have to deal with unexpected expenses.

"I hope the benefit provides us which the much-needed support that we need," he said. "I might actually have a little bit of money left over to go and enjoy myself from time to time."

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