Posted on Jun 2, 2021
NDP CALL ON THE UCP TO IMMEDIATELY STOP STEALING INCOME FROM VULNERABLE ALBERTANS
EDMONTON - The Alberta NDP are demanding the UCP stop taking away income support, including critical funding for shelter and special diets, from the Barriers to Full Employment program.
“These cuts potentially affect 20,000 Albertans and their children, pushing them on to other supports like homeless shelters, food banks, law enforcement and child intervention,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “What kind of situation does the UCP think people on Income Support are in that they can somehow just pack up and find a cheaper place to live?”
In September 2020, the UCP updated the policy manual for Income Support and changed the eligibility for supplemental benefits like the Additional Shelter Allowance, requiring the recipient be new to the program (within 2 months) or have experienced a change in circumstance, such as an increase in rent. Recipients are also now required to provide substantiation of a new change of circumstance every three months. This quiet change has caused many Albertans to lose income pushing them further into poverty.
Budget 2021 cut income support by $66 million, the largest portion of that cut came to Barriers to Full Employment with a $53.5 million cut. The UCP have continually argued that this is not a cut because of federal support leading to a decreased case load.
“It is clear the UCP want to decrease the amount of funding directed to support the most vulnerable and they are trying to do it without anyone noticing. This would be wrong and shortsighted at any time, but during a public health emergency, it is incomprehensibly cruel and grossly irresponsible,” said NDP Community and Social Services Marie Renaud. “There is a shortage of safe and affordable housing options available for those in poverty and the UCP are to blame.”
Lorna Sanderson has received the shelter benefit for over ten years without issue, but because of the UCP’s change in policy, she recently lost it. She can no longer afford to rent her home which is close to transportation and services which are essential since she can not drive.
“Since the UCP have formed government, I have lost over $400 a month of income and can no longer afford rent. Without the generosity of my daughter and the reasonableness of my landlord in these difficult times as I search for a new place, I would be homeless,” said Sanderson. “I am a poor person who has worked my whole life while being a single mother. Why is my income the first thing attacked in a time of crisis?”
Single mom and BFE recipient Jennifer Campen had her Additional Shelter Allowance of $307, her Medical Transportation of $97 and Special Diet benefits of $84 and $88, removed without notice. She was not notified of her right to appeal these decisions as mandated in the legislation. In January, she received no income and was forced to appeal the reductions. Her benefits never arrived for May.
“I have been on this support for over five years and have had no issues until these past few months where I have lost income without justification.,” said Campen. “I worry every month if my son and I will have enough to make it. I do not receive clear reasoning from the government on why I am losing these support spontaneously and they do not help me once the supports are gone.”
Aaron Chy is a pharmacist who works with many patients experiencing poverty and who are on income support.
“I have seen a pattern of more and more people who we serve whose physical and mental health has been getting worse. It turned out that this was caused by a significant and sudden loss of income support which had driven them to be homeless,” said Chy. “Many of my clients have had housing for years with no issues. Now, I'm doing my best to try and help people with their health and medications, but meanwhile they're telling me they're forced to sleep in graveyards at night, or wherever they can find a place to stay.”
The Alberta NDP are calling on the UCP to immediately stop taking these crucial supports away from people in the Barriers to Full Employment program.