If you think 2020 has been a difficult year for you, Albertans receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) have been continuously targeted by the United Conservative government since they took office.
AISH clients receive $1,685 per month. It’s not a fortune, as the MLA from St. Albert, Marie Renaud, who is trying to live on the allotted amount for the month of October will attest. But the people receiving AISH have had more than their fair share of stressors added since the UCP came to office.
What if your income was no longer indexed with inflation? In industry speak, if you had recently been told you would receive a raise each year to match inflation, what would happen if that were taken away? Would it add any stress?
Many Albertans know exactly what it is like. However, Albertans making minimum wage and working full time would see approximately $2,520/month before taxes, leaving them with just over $2,000 for the month; $300 more than AISH clients receive.
Earlier this year, the UCP moved the deposit dates of AISH clients from three business days before the end of the month to the first of the month.
Some might think that isn’t a great big deal, but I would ask what moving your regular pay schedule three to four days later than you were used to would do for you?
Would you have to make calls to change regularly scheduled payments? Would you have to use credit? Would you have to ask your family for help? Would you have to take out a payday loan? Would it affect you if your regularly scheduled deposit date was moved? Would it add any stress?
That change came into effect March 1, 2020, right before lockdowns.
But the UCP wasn’t done kicking AISH clients.
When the federal government announced CERB, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, AISH recipients did not know if applying for it would affect their benefits. The Alberta government didn’t make a decision until May.
In normal times, a single person receiving AISH could earn up to $1,072 ($2,612 for a family) in income before AISH funding was affected.
It should be noted that a “family” may include a spouse who is not on AISH. That’s why these changes directly affect AISH recipients and their families. If their *spouse* received CERB because they lost their job, it cannot be claimed as the spouse’s income as their regular pay would have – it has a new category that will take money off AISH recipient’s cheques as well.
CERB was an employment income replacement, available in place of Employment Insurance supports, providing the recipient had logged income of at least $5,000 in 2019, or 2020.
For those who worked a bare part-time job, CERB may have afforded them an increase.
Other provinces across the country looked at how they could support people with disabilities, while Alberta’s government looked for ways they could take cash in on CERB themselves at recipient’s expense.
In Ontario, the government partially exempted CERB for those who normally receive provincial government benefits.
In Alberta, the UCP government said that CERB, an employment income replacement, would be considered “passive business income” for those individuals and families who also receive AISH.
The “passive business income” allows families to earn up to $875 ($300 for a single person) without affecting their AISH benefits. If CERB was considered employment income, a family on AISH would be eligible to earn up to $2,612 (1,072 for a single person), with a 50 per cent exemption on additional earnings (to a cap). Passive business income over $300 or $875, depending on the family unit, is only 25 per cent exempt.
CERB paid $2,000 per month.
A single person who received CERB would have $1,275 clawed back from their $1,685 AISH deposit.
A family would owe $843.75 if only one adult income earner claimed CERB.
In a family of two income earners, if they both applied for CERB, would have been ineligible for their AISH in the month CERB was received.
It would be like the Alberta government saying that all Albertans who received CERB would have to pay a capital gains tax rather than include it in regular income.
AISH recipients didn’t start businesses to apply for CERB just like every other Albertan didn’t suddenly become a business owner when they applied.
The fact is that the UCP government wouldn’t even try to do this to anyone else.
This is our Alberta under the United Conservative government – tax breaks for drilling oil and asking those who can least afford it to pay more.
This post contains opinion.
Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a political commentator physically distancing in Southern Alberta. Connect: @Mitchell_AB for more, @thisweekinAB for posts @politicalRnD for something in between